At a party this holiday season, we played a game whereby you identify famous people using the minimum number of word-clues, and as fast as possible. There, I discovered something disturbing (besides the fact that a plurality think the characters from Duck Dynasty are famous): anyone who picked President Clinton (42) out of the hat yelled immediately, as his or her first clue, "Lewinsky!" Each time -- and his name came up a lot -- only that one clue was needed to elicit a chorus of correct responses.
This is sad. With the clock ticking, eight years and two terms to reflect upon, no one thought to scream "Family and Medical Leave Act!!!" Nor were any additional hints needed, no "Budget surplus!!". No one wailed "NAFTA!!", nor spoke to his gubernatorial record. Instead, "Lewinsky" produced "Clinton", with a swift, hyphenated sense of inevitability. Peas in a very crowded pod. President Clinton is forever linked to and known by another. In fact another other, not the Main Other.
Ranking and judging Presidents is a popular pastime. OK, maybe only if you live in D.C. for years, like myself. It's comparable to rating best-ever Super Bowls (interestingly, there have been about the same number of each -- football championships 48, Presidents 44).
Struck by the disservice to President Clinton, I've devised a much simpler, mistress-free way of judging recent presidents, a method that has escaped the attention of detail-consumed historians like Beschloss and Kearns Goodwin. It is subjective, admittedly, but gets at the inner core of recent Commanders-in-Chief, the 'character issue'.
The game. Ask the question: who would take the Air Force One escape pod? (For older presidents and HuffPost readers, you might ask who would jump off the clipper ship or out of the Montgolfier balloon). Who would stay onboard, take a stand and fight it out with the terrorists? Harrison Ford stayed: "Get off of my plane." This is my take on who would take the other route, take the pod, leave friends and family behind:
Reagan: No (first term)/Yes (second term).
Bush (41): No.
Bush (43): Yes.
The game can be expanded to Veeps too. Admittedly you would have to be a terrorist group with rare self-esteem issues to want to storm Air Force Two, instead of One. Ransom expectations and prisoner release demands would be somewhat reduced once you gloated to the world over your global radio microphone system that you had Spiro Agnew or Dan Quayle safely under wraps, obviously. On the other hand, Air Force Two is probably lightly guarded, if at all, and more than likely by Secret Service agents on re-assignment from Colombian bordellos, or guys in denim shirts from Jet Blue. But still: who takes the pod?
George HW Bush: No
Should this post go viral, as have some of my previous blogs (were my columns H1N1, with 11 'Likes', the CDC would already have declared a festive-season pandemic, and birds would be getting slaughtered all over Chinese markets), it could become next year's wildly popular and disturbing holiday party game, and I'll be more famous than one Phil Robertson.