I found this post at Face In The Blue, going through each of the 44 presidents and asking which would win in a 44-President knifefight melee — oddly entertaining.
The rules, as set by redditor Xineph:
* Every president is in the best physical and mental condition they were ever in throughout the course of their presidency. Fatal maladies have been cured, but any lifelong conditions or chronic illnesses (e.g. FDR’s polio) remain.
* The presidents are fighting in an ovular arena 287 feet long and 180 feet wide (the dimensions of the Roman Colosseum). The floor is concrete. Assume that weather is not a factor.
* Each president has been given one standard-issue Gerber LHR Combat Knife , the knife presented to each graduate of the United States Army Special Forces Qualification Course. Assume the presidents have no training outside any combat experiences they may have had in their own lives.
* There is no penalty for avoiding combat for an extended period of time. Hiding and/or playing dead could be valid strategies, but there can be only one winner. The melee will go on as long as it needs to.
* FDR has been outfitted with a Bound Plus H-Frame Power Wheelchair, and can travel at a maximum speed of around 11.5 MPH. The wheelchair has been customized so that he is holding his knife with his dominant hand. This is to compensate for his almost certain and immediate defeat in the face of an overwhelming disadvantage.
* Each president will be deposited in the arena regardless of their own will to fight, however, personal ethics, leadership ability, tactical expertise etc., should all be taken into account. Alliances are allowed.
(See also the discussion in the comments here.)
Although the blogger briefly mentions a couple of possible alliances, he mainly focuses on individual ability — who has combat experience, who is a good athlete, and who has the killer instinct. Based on this, he decides that Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Andrew Jackson would be the top three.
But I think alliances are actually the most important aspect of this knife fight (at least until the end game). In a 44-person melee with no place to hide, even a skilled killer like Jackson will end up with a knife between his shoulderblades, unless he’s got absolutely trusted allies guarding his back.
Furthermore, because the melee starts immediately, there’s not going to be time to build new alliances from scratch. The three strongest alliances at the start will be the three family pairs — the two John Adamss, the two George Bushes, and the two Roosevelts.
What about the two Harrisons? The elder was the grandfather of the younger – but since they never met as adults, the two Harrisons don’t have a built-in relationship of trust the way the Adamss, Bushes and Rossevelts do.1
So, what of our alliances? I think George Washington would naturally join in with John Adams, as they were allies in life. Jefferson and Madison were enemies of the elder Adams, so they’re probably not in the alliance. Andrew Jackson loathed the younger Adams ever since the 1828 election, when pro-Adams folks spread the word in the press that Mrs. Jackson had committed bigamy (which was true). Van Buren would join with Jackson.
So this alliance is just three Presidents – Washington, Adams, and Adams. And of those three, I think only Washington – a big guy with major military experience – is a very intimidating fighter.
So how about the two Roosevelts? They’re an interesting combo. FDR is physically one of the least imposing people in this knife fight – not being able to stand limits reach — but also the fastest. TR is the physically most intimidating fighter on the field — he is, after all, only 42, still physically in his prime, and unbelievably tough. (What sort of person declines medical care after being gutshot because he has a speech scheduled?) But as far as alliances go, FDR could bring both Truman and Eisenhower on board. TR, on the other hand, tended to alienate people, and neither Taft nor Wilson would join him.
So let’s call this alliance TR-FDR-Truman-Eisenhower. I think they’d be pretty scarey.
So, what about the Bushes? I think people underestimate GHWB; looking at his bio, it’s clear that he was smart and courageous. He’d bring in Reagan and Ford as allies (and Ford was a good athlete). Would Nixon join them? I’m not sure; Nixon might feel bitter over GHWB pressuring him to resign. On the other hand, Nixon doesn’t really have anyone else to ally with, and he sure wouldn’t like his odds as a loner. I can’t see Bush, Jr bringing any allies on board.
So this group is George Bush, George Bush, Nixon, Reagan, and Ford.
So what happens?
I don’t think Washington-Adams-Adams will last. Both John Adamss are about 60 years old and neither one had any fighting experience; and Washington himself is just too juicy a target.
Then we have the Roosevelts. I think they’re going to take themselves down with in-fighting; TR, the strongest and (amazingly) most arrogant of this group, will expect the others to obey his orders, but I don’t think Eisenhower would put up with that. But if this group can somehow get along, they’ll wind up the last group standing, in which case TR will kill the others and be the champion.
The Bush group has the advantage of being five people, so they can suffer a couple of casualties2 and still have three Presidents left in their alliance. That, I think, would be a telling advantage. And in the endgame, when it comes time to turn on your allies and become the last man standing, GHWB has the right combination of physical ability and ruthlessness.
- But if Benjamin can manage to explain who is to his grandfather without getting stabbed, then William might be a valuable ally. Most people are dismissing William because he died 31 days into his presidency, but that was from a fatal case of pnumonia, and according to the rules “fatal maladies have been cured.” William Harrison was a terrible human being, but also a soldier with combat experience, so probably shouldn’t be counted out entirely, he says, counting him out entirely. [↩]
- I.e., Nixon [↩]