So this admittedly funny post is circulating around the internets, and while people are arguing whether or not Jimmy Carter is underrated (dude was Navy) or betting on whether Teddy Roosevelt or Andrew Jackson is the biggest ringer, the one thing they all mostly agree on is that Obama would get killed early on because he’s too nice.
People are underrating Obama because Obama wants to get along, and here is why:
There’s a great Star Trek novel – bear with me, people – by Julia Ecklar called The Kobayashi Maru, which is theoretically about how Kirk, Scotty, Chekov and Sulu all took that famous “built to fail” test, and it’s some of the best Trek writing I’ve ever read, up there with the Zar books by A.C. Crispin or Final Frontier by Diane Carey or How Much For Just The Planet? by the late, great John M. Ford. I know this sounds like total nerdbait, but I am genuinely serious when I say that the top tier of 80s Trek books are simply some of the greatest genre fiction ever written – there’s real genius there, writers who wanted to write Big Sci-Fi Adventure and realized that Trek books were their best option for doing so. If you haven’t read these books, you’re missing out.
So anyway, The Kobayashi Maru is basically four short stories written into a binding narrative. They’re all very good: Kirk recounts how he cheated on the test (and it’s even funnier than it was in the 2009 film, and that was pretty damn funny), Sulu’s story is a melancholy and beautiful meditation on loss and the harsh realities of becoming an adult, and Scotty more or less blows up the universe in his test, which is kind of classic.
But Chekov’s story is brilliant because it skips the Maru test completely and instead proceeds to a second test Starfleet cadets are made to fail, which is basically a giant version of Mafia/Werewolf where everybody is armed with stun lasers: there’s a “spy” whose instruction is to kill everybody else and they have to survive. Chekov and his fellow cadets basically all blow the shit out of one another with their stun lasers and in the process torpedo many a friendship, and at the end, when everybody is “dead,” along comes the instructor. Everybody assumes Chekov is going to win because he “killed” the most other people, and then the instructor drops the bombshell:
They all failed. Like everybody always fails this test, because everybody does what Chekov and his classmates did, because everybody always decides to kill everybody else and survive to “win.” Except, of course, for one person, who realized that the point of the exercise wasn’t “kill everybody else,” because Starfleet doesn’t work that way. What that student did was refuse to play the game: he created a “safe zone” where people could come and show that they could be trusted (by surrendering their weapons) and once you can trust some people, you can extend that trust to more people because you’ve got people to watch your back. The whole “only one survivor” thing is a con, plain and simple. And of course, that student who figured that out was James T. Kirk.
And that is why Obama would win. It’s not about getting along for the sake of getting along. It’s about being smart enough to know what game you’re playing in the first place. And when you’re dealing with “every President fights to the death with knives,” you’ve got to realize most of them are smart enough to know that doing so would probably get them killed, and most of them wouldn’t want to fight anyway. (Jackson and Nixon, yes, but not most of them.)