George Herbert Walker Bush Would Win The Presidential Knife Fight

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.


  1. 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. []
  2. I.e., Nixon []
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34 Responses to George Herbert Walker Bush Would Win The Presidential Knife Fight

  1. 1
    Copyleft says:

    But wouldn’t Ford just trip over something and Reagan get axed while waiting for the director to yell “Cut”?

  2. 2
    RonF says:

    Madison and Jefferson had their differences with the elder Adams in life, but don’t discount the fact that they had a long history of fighting against a common foe despite those differences. I think the Founders would collectively band together and follow Washington’s command.

  3. 3
    Robert says:

    The common enemy is not one another, but whatever malevolent force has brought them all together and attempted to force them to battle for its own evil amusement. United by their mutual executive authority, they would band together (after spending a couple rounds eliminating the obvious weak links like Carter) and turn on their captors.

  4. 4
    time123 says:

    You’re also ignoring skill. I don’t know that any of our presidents are trained knife fighters. But I do know that Jackson, Polk, USG TR, GW, all killed people at close range. Some with edged weapons. I’m sure there are others but we can’t discount the advantage having previously done that would give.

  5. 5
    Robert says:

    Also, you severely underestimate the combat power of George Mother Fucking Washington. He was ten stories high and made of radiation, for God’s sake.

    (A friend and I are enthusiasts of the ‘Washington’s War’ boardgame, in which the first president plays a naturally prominent role. Whenever Washington enters battle, this rap is played with the solemnity and respect that the man deserved.)

  6. 6
    Nobody says:

    I see Eisenhower in big trouble here. He was 63 when he became president, and you know that Nixon would come after him in a frenzy of vengeful bloodlust first thing.

  7. 7
    nobody.really says:

    Oh cool – just like the Ulimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny.

    Jackson, Polk, USG TR, GW, all killed people at close range. Some with edged weapons. I’m sure there are others but we can’t discount the advantage having previously done that would give.

    Recall Lincoln dispatching those zombies and vampires? ‘Nuf said.

  8. 8
    Stentor says:

    I think Carter would be the first victim of within-group fighting — based on last night, I’m sure Clinton and Obama would gravitate together for an alliance, and Carter would be inclined to tag along. But he would be such a liability to the group (what if one of the other combatants has a rabbit?) that WJC and BHO would have to take him out.

    My money is on Fillmore or Pierce. I think the other presidents will be thinking “who is tough and dangerous and needs to be taken out,” so they’ll forget about some of the antebellum nobodies. If Fillmore or Pierce can just stay out of the way, they’ll be fresh and rested enough to take down a battle-weary TR or GHWB.

  9. 9
    Ruchama says:

    In terms of physical fitness, I would think that most of the presidents from the pre-automobile era would have better stamina and endurance than most of the modern ones, just because they were more used to it. On those reality shows where they have people try to live as if it were some historical period, the first several episodes are usually full of the people talking about how physically exhausting it is.

  10. 10
    Sebastian says:

    If there is a survivor, it would be George Washington. Who would attack him first? All he has to do is stand aside until the crowd is thinned. There are rivalries that will start the blood flowing.

    Washington is probably the only one who could stay out of the melee until he can take on the survivors. He is known to everyone, and it is likely that any alliance trying to attack him will unite all the other survivors.

    By the time there are so few left that anyone would contemplate attacking Washington, everyone will be at the very least exhausted, and probably dying. Knives kill slowly, which is why the usual outcome of a knife duel is one dead and one dying.

    A fresh and healthy Washington is very likely to be able to handle two men as long as they are exhausted and bleeding. It’s unlikely that any alliance will manage to remain stronger than that before it talks itself into attacking Washington.

    But as in any “one survivor” situations, avoidance and concealment for as long as possible is the answer. Taking down one person quickly, getting bloodied and playing dead is the best strategy for anyone who can pull it off.

  11. 11
    Ampersand says:

    Carter had military training, and was a submarine commander who didn’t hesitate to go into a nuclear sub after the meltdown to shut things down. Plus, he was in his early fifties as president, which puts him on the younger side of this crowd (although not as young as TR or Obama). I don’t think he’d be the last man standing, but neither would he be the easy target folks here are suggesting.

    On another subject, I think that Jackson — because he was such a famous badass — would be strongly subject to the other Presidents allying against him. TR might have the same problem. Being obviously the strongest player on the field can actually be a strong disadvantage.

  12. 12
    Robert says:

    Carter was trained for command but never actually owned a boat, an important distinction. And navy officers are not schooled, particularly, in personal lethality.

    That said, I don’t think he’d go down because of personal ineptitude or weakness, but because too many people in all the various factions dislike and distrust him, and so would make his elimination a priority.

    This would make a hell of a boardgame.

  13. 13
    Ampersand says:

    Too many people? Are you assuming that all the Presidents have knowledge of what happened after their own lifetimes? I’ve been assuming the opposite — that virtually everyone would know who Andrew Jackson (for example) is, but almost no one would know who the most recent handful of Presidents are.

  14. 14
    Robert says:

    No, I’m assuming that everyone since his term hates him.

  15. 15
    Hugh says:

    @Robert: Even assuming that, that’s only five Presidents.

  16. 16
    JutGory says:

    @Hugh and Robert

    Not just 5, because you would have Nixon and Ford too, I presume, as they knew him.

    Or, Amp, does their knowledge only encompass what they knew by the time they left office?

    Having said that, I think Ford would be pissed at Carter (and Reagan a bit too, unless you look at Ford’s lifetime of knowledge-he probably got over his disputes with Reagan).


  17. 17
    Ampersand says:

    Since the rules say “Every president is in the best physical and mental condition they were ever in throughout the course of their presidency,” I’d assume they know things from their presidency, but not from after their presidency. But that’s just my guess.

    And yeah, this would be a great board game. Or better yet, miniatures.

  18. 18
    Copyleft says:

    Why would anybody but Bush Junior hate Carter? Even Reagan probably didn’t hate the guy.

  19. 19
    Jake Squid says:

    Nixon is the last President standing. He managed to bring a gun and 800 rounds into the arena.

  20. 20
    JutGory says:

    Amp: “And yeah, this would be a great board game. Or better yet, miniatures.”

    I am thinking more of role-playing game (a la Dungeons and Dragons), or World of Warcraft, or even a first person shooter deathmatch.


  21. 21
    Robert says:

    @18 – Because, whatever your opinion of the underlying issues involved, Carter breaks the unwritten but almost universally honored rule that a former President doesn’t make foreign policy waves for his successors. He is a huge pain in all of their asses, Dem and Rep alike, because he goes around chatting with people that the current executives very much wish that he wouldn’t chat with.

  22. 22
    Elusis says:

    Clearly Obama wins, because every President before about Nixon just assumes he’s there as the help.

  23. 23
    Copyleft says:

    Oooh! Good one!

  24. 24
    Sam 240 says:

    “In a 44-person melee with no place to hide,”

    This would give us two Grover Clevelands, which makes another automatic alliance. I’m not sure who Cleveland and Cleveland would make an alliance with, however. On the other hand, Cleveland would be at an advantage because fighters would need to kill him twice in order to knock him out.

  25. 25
    CHristopher J Garcia says:

    Taft, man. You do not mess with William Howard “Hit-‘em-hard” Taft.

  26. 26
    Robert says:

    Who’s the white legal mind
    That’s a sex machine to those not blind?
    You’re damn right

    Who is the man
    That would risk his neck for his brother man?
    Can ya dig it?

    Who’s the cat that won’t cop out
    When there’s danger all about
    Right on

    You see this cat Taft is a bad mother–
    (Shut your mouth)
    But I’m talkin’ about Taft
    (Then we can dig it)

    He’s a complicated man
    But no one understands him but his woman
    (Helen Herron)

  27. 27
    ballgame says:

    Too funny, Robert!

  28. 28
    Dianne says:

    Proposed alternative scenario: The recent Democrats (Carter, Clinton, Obama) ally, with or without LBJ and JFK. Lincoln’s first reaction on seeing Obama is one of horror: Remember, Lincoln opposed slavery but didn’t think that blacks and whites could live together peacefully so his first reaction would be to think that a black president means white subjugation. He’s horrified at what he’s done and attacks Obama. Obama, although unlikely to be under any illusions about Lincoln’s real feelings and motivations, would nonetheless perhaps hesitate to attack a man he grew up thinking of as a hero. Besides which, all the other 18th and 19th century presidents are after him too. As in Dubya. He goes down. Clinton and Carter throw themselves into the fray.

    Carter goes down attempting to defend Obama. Clinton gets a minor wound, pretends it’s mortal, and lies on the ground, apparently dead. The others are too busy to stick a knife in to make sure he’s really dead. The fight proceeds as you outlined until at last only Bush Sr is standing.

    “I win!” gloats Bush.

    Clinton stands, covered in the gore of 42 historical figures. “Briefly,” he replies, “But as usual you will lose to me!” They fight.

    Bush has combat experience, Clinton doesn’t. OTOH, Bush has just fought 42 men and has either killed his own son or seen his son killed. He’s tired and distraught. Clinton has just had a nice rest. Clinton wins.

  29. 29
    Nancy K. Jones says:

    Calvin Coolidge. A desperate little man. In excellent health, cold as a popcicle.
    He will go far.

  30. Pingback: Every American President in a Single Knife Fight: This is What the Internet Was Made For « Misanthropology 101

  31. 30
    Sam L says:

    Do the older presidents have intel on the ones who came after them, or does their knowledge of the opposition end with their date of death? I can see an advantage for the more modern presidents in knowing more about their opponents than they do of them.

  32. 31
    Radfem says:

    Woodrow Wilson…yeah his health wasn’t the best but he had a secret weapon and who’s to say his wife can’t kick the men’s collective arses?

    Wasn’t Warren Harding in pretty good shape too until he died suddenly and some say mysteriously? Maybe he’d better have his wife doing his fighting too.

  33. 32
    Dianne says:

    So…who wins the vice presidential knife fight which will inevitably break out once all the presidents are dead?

  34. 33
    Jake Squid says:

    So…who wins the vice presidential knife fight which will inevitably break out once all the presidents are dead?