Posted by: cousindampier | 26 February 2014

A Ranking of American Presidents based on Knife-Fighting Abilities

Mark decided to forward me this link describing a hypothetical knife fight between the 43 men who have served as President of the United States. He probably thought he was being kind, and it is a funny list, but given my love of presidents, rankings, and knife fights (you should probably get out more), what resulted was a few dozen hours spent ranking and re-ranking presidents while also getting lost in wikipedia biographies and debating the nuances of “How the hell did Warren Harding get elected?” and “Franklin Pierce: The MOST unknown President?” and “Would Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton watch from the Arena stands, giggling with glee?”

So here’s a hypothetical list of a hypothetical knife fight between Presidents, because I am delightfully amused at this idea.  And before we begin, thanks to Reddit as well as faceintheblue for doing the groundwork.   As a caveat, I had the same final three as faceintheblue before reading his (and, granted, his post is from about two years ago).

“Only the Dead have seen the End of War”

43. James Buchanan
Buchanan would have the opportunity to end this whole conflict before it starts, but would refuse to recognize his own right to end to hostilities, instead believing the 43 men in the Arena had to put it to a vote.

42. Herbert Hoover
Enforced prohibition. Dead.

41. John Tyler
Jackson hated him. Dead.

40. Woodrow Wilson
Roosevelt hated him. Dead.

39. William Howard Taft
Roosevelt also hated him. Dead.

38. Millard Fillmore
The record of success for Whig Vice-Presidents who ascend to the Presidency is not very good (see John Tyler).

“The Warren G. Harding Category”

37. Warren Harding
The famous story is that Harding looked like a President, the Party did the heavy lifting, the country was pissed at Wilson, and he got elected. A known womanizer, Harding would likely pull an Alex Rodriguez impersonation and start chatting up some lady in the stands, who would then watch him die.

“Mutual Hate leads to Mutual Love”
36. Thomas Jefferson
35. John Adams
They end up on different sides of the Arena, and as Adams dies he once again thinks Jefferson outlived him, not knowing that Teddy Roosevelt’s famous dislike of Jefferson made Roosevelt’s third kill.

“Probably Not Dead First?”
34. Chester Arthur
Was in the Civil War, but only as a Quartermaster General. Never saw the front, was part of Conkling’s Republican Machine, and was pretty ill. I guess his Civil War experience puts him here.

33. James Madison
Madison was a brilliant, brilliant man. Just probably not with a knife.

32. Gerald Ford
31. Jimmy Carter
If any two presidents were forced to fight a duel, it must be Carter vs. Ford, because it seems like they were one long term.

“I’m not dead yet!”
30. Andrew Johnson
On one hand, he was a Democrat from secessionist Tennessee. On the other hand, he managed to alienate a Radical Republican Congress and refused to federally ensure that former slaves had a full slate of rights. I feel like Lincoln finds out what he did and hunts him down.

29. Ronald Reagan
Would he know where he was?

28. John Quincy Adams
A ruthless politician, great diplomat, knew both Washington and Lincoln. Also hated by Jackson. Not a good position to be in.  Dead.

“Fun Historical Jokes”

27. George H.W. Bush
In a twist of fate, as Bush I is stalking Clinton and nearly has him, but is then murdered by a flock of owls.

26. Richard Nixon
He’d tap every other President’s dressing room, except he’d lose the 18 minutes of tape where they discuss strategy.

25. Calvin Coolidge
He’d survive this long because he wouldn’t say a word and the others would forget he was there.

“That Guy was a President?”

24. Franklin Pierce

Went to war with Mexico, where his horse snapped, throwing Pierce against the saddle balls-first and then throwing him off, leaving Pierce with a knee-injury.

Guy seems unlucky. He is also probably number 1 on the “Who was that president?” List


23. James Garfield
Brigadier General in the Civil War. Fought at Shiloh and Chickamauga. Got shot 200 days into his presidency. Cue Morpheous. 

22. James Polk
Got elected by promising to invade Texas. If he ran on that platform today, he’d win 49 states. Polk will go far.

“Sleep With Crazy, but Don’t Date Them”

21. Bill Clinton
Clinton is kind of hard to peg. Does the impeachment make him a harder person? He seems like he’d come up and talk to you for a bit, then slip a knife into your ribs, especially if you know Ken Starr.

20. John F. Kennedy
The wild card of the whole brawl. He could be one of the first ten dead, or one of the last ten alive. Is Marilyn in the stands? Does his medication give him super-strength? Is he hardened by his war experience? Do the other Presidents frighten him as much as the Soviets?

So many questions, Jack. So many questions.

“Baroge Busama”
19. Barack Obama
18. George Bush II

As we’ve seen over time, Bush II is lucky. Obama is tall and rangy and has the reach. Bush gets the nod because he’d probably be coked up.

“Added together, Grover Cleveland is President 46”

17. Grover Cleveland.
Just because when he dies, he gets a second life.
(For those of you who didn’t laugh, that joke is hilarious)

“Some Civil War Guys and A Dutchman”

16. William McKinley
The famous McKinley image – outside of getting shot, I suppose – was his inability to decide for or against the Spanish-American War.

But he began as a private and ended up as a major, and to be fair: anybody who went through the Civil War is probably a pretty hard guy. He’d make it for a while – and look at this portrait. Those eyes are horrifying.

15. Benjamin Harrison

He commanded a brigade at Kennesaw Mountain and Atlanta! And Nashville! Harrison ended up a Brigadier General. I knew none of this. My whole life has been a sham.

14. Martin Van Buren
Jackson’s confidant and successor. In our alternative reality, Jackson shows him this Michael Caine clip and tells him that John Quincy Adams said it.  Van Buren pulls his best William of Orange impression on Quincy Adams, except he doesn’t allow Adams to flee the country.

(It’s the best I could do for a Dutch joke.)

“These Three Presidents governed for 28 years”

13. Dwight D. Eisenhower
World War II hero. Everybody remembers him as a negotiator instead of a fighter, though. He’d take the fall for FDR.

12. FDR
Anybody who played Goldeneye inevitably played with the “No Oddjob” rule during melees. Why? Oddjob was short, fast, and impossible to hit.

FDR is sitting in a wheelchair.

11. Harry Truman
Truman was hard headed. It didn’t make him friends, but he did threaten to punch a reporter in the face once. And he fired MacArthur. That takes balls. Lots of them.

“Like Lost, but Nobody is in Purgatory”

10. Rutherford Hayes
Rutherford Hayes was wounded five times in the Civil War, and he did not die from any of those wounds, nor any disease. That fact is incredible.

9. William Henry Harrison
Yes, he died early into his term. But that Tippacanoe and Tyler too stuff was for real. Harrison was born on the frontier, had to support his family at a young age, was in the army at the age of 18. He’ll die because he’s stupid enough to give a two hour speech in the rain, but not because he is unable to fight.

8. LBJ
Tall, like Lincoln, and unlike Lincoln, a bigger guy. Grew up pretty poor. Worked himself to exhaustion to get elected. Negatives: firearms and the 20th century stank. Seriously, after TR, the list of guys who might win is Truman, LBJ, and Bush II (just cause he might get super lucky. He’s the Tim Tebow of all of this)

7. Zachary Taylor
The first time Taylor comes in with a top-10 finish on a Presidential Rankings List unless its named “Who was that president again?” Mexican-American War. This man has seen some SHIT. Literally. American troops drinking Mexican water in the middle of summer? Dysentery written all over it.

6. James Monroe
5. Ulysses S. Grant
Don’t sleep on Monroe! He fought in the Revolution, took a bullet to the shoulder. Grant was an alcoholic who wrote his memoirs while dying of throat cancer and uttered the famous line, “Well, lick them tomorrow.” I feel like the alcoholism will both help and hurt him.

4. George Washington

“Gold, Silver, and Bronze in some order”
Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt

Jackson seems insane, and while I think this is helpful – being in hypothetical Presidential knife fight requires insanity – it likely hurts him as well. I mean, Jackson is famously tough. The scar on his face came from a British officer’s sword, and he nearly invaded South Carolina (oh so close). He got lucky as well, in surviving an assassination attempt in which two guns misfired.

Lincoln is, rather famously, unluckier. But he grew up dirt poor and is emblematic of the ‘rags to riches’ story in America. He steered the country through the Civil War, showing a calculated and strategic mind. His height also gives him reach on nearly every other president.

And Roosevelt seems to be a mixture of the two. He was famously tough, contracting malaria whilst fighting in Cuba, getting shot and still giving a speech, and since he never had the bullet removed from that assassination attempt, he came down with a tropical fever while on an exploration mission in Brazil. He was a calculating politician as well, dealing with a Congress which only sometimes liked him, and he helped mediate the Russo-Japanese war.

It would go down something like this:

Jackson would probably be the first to die, leaving Lincoln to face off against Roosevelt. Lincoln’s range allows him the first swipe, but Roosevelt isn’t going down with one stab of the knife, and Lincoln’s ill-luck catches up with him. Unlike the Washington Nationals famous race, TEDDY WINS!


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