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August 27, 2011

"You Don't Fight With Honor": Handicapping the Race for the White House via Game of Thrones





Eerie resemblance, no?


My friends (as John McCain used to seethe), here’s the deal with Game of Thrones. I have not read any of George R.R. Martin’s sword-and-sorcery novels, nor do I intend to, since even I have some semblance of a life to lead; but not so much of a life as to prevent me from watching and for the most part enjoying the first season of HBO’s series.

For a video summary of that ten-episode season, check this out. The following paragraph is my version, sculpted with a self-imposed word limit of 150:

In Westeros, there’s bad blood between the noble Starks of rural Winterfell and the incestuous Lannisters of the capital. The king is an old pal of Stark père but is married to a Lannister chick with whom he has spawned a ruthless son, so all heck breaks loose when the king dies in a hunting “accident.” Up north, there’s this giant wall protecting the kingdom from a nasty infestation of zombies—just for the hell of it, I guess, as that seems like a whole other show. Then there are the Targaryens, zany bleached-blonde kids who went into exile across the sea after their dad, the “Mad King,” was killed. Brother Viserys marries off little sis Daenerys to Khal Drogo of the wild-ass Dothraki tribe in exchange for the latter’s support in regaining the throne. In the end, three-way war among Starks, Lannisters, Dothrakis appears inevitable. End of season/word allotment.

Game of Thrones takes place in a mythical universe but clearly was intended to provide an allegory for the 2012 U.S. presidential campaign. Exactly how this can be so when Martin began work on the novels in 1991, I’m not sure. But that’s the joy of fantasy—certain things remain unknowable. There are known unknowns, as Rumsfeld used to say, and unknown unknowns, and unknown knowns that we think we know. God, I miss Rummy…

To bolster my case, I have assembled this list of the Game of Thrones doppelgangers for each 2012 candidate, could-be candidate, or has-been candidate.

One rule, though: No Lannisters allowed. "A Lannister always pays his debts," and no candidate for president has any viable proposal for paying off debt.

Barack Obama: Ned Stark, stolid patriarch of the Stark clan. Early on, Ned is presented as the reasonable center of the story, a righteous man surely destined to prevail, after much hardship and sacrifice, over evil forces. Over time, though, he emerges as an over-earnest, plodding do-gooder who doesn’t realize that events and his enemies have conspired to do him in. Everyone else can see his demise coming five episodes off, but not Ned himself. Even after getting stabbed, betrayed, arrested, and thrown in a dungeon, Ned still believes he can reach a compromise with the ruthless, amoral ideologues who oppose him right up to the minute he is publicly beheaded in front of his two daughters.



Ned (shackled in a dungeon): You think my life is such a precious thing to me, that I would trade my honor for a few more years?


Obama (shackled to a Republican Congress): I don't worry about my re-election prospects right now.


Michele Bachmann: Khal Drogo—he of the scary eyes and vicious defense of family values. When his squirrely brother-in-law threatens his unborn child, Drogo responds by pouring molten gold on his head. (Presumably he later retrieves the gold—it being the safest investment in these uncertain times.) And when Drogo needs funds for ships to safely transfer the men and women of his armed forces across the sea, does he even think for a moment of raising taxes on the wealthiest Dothrakis? No! He pillages a peaceful village near the shore instead.



"Anha vidrik khalasares anni jim, finaan nakhoe rhaesheser, majin adothrak hrazef ido yomme Havazzhifi Kazga ven et vo khal avvos. Anha vaddrivak mahrazhis fini ondee khogar shiqethi ma vohharak okrenegwin mori. Anha aqorisok chiories mori, vazzafrok yal mori, ma afichak vojjor samva Vaesaan Dothrak. Ki jini anha astak asqoy, anha, Drogo ki Bharbosi." (“I will take my khalasar west to where the world ends and ride wooden horses across the black salt sea as no khal has done before. I will kill the men in iron suits and tear down their stone houses. I will rape their women, take their children as slaves and bring their broken gods back to Vaes Dothrak. This I vow, Drogo, son of Bharbo.”)



"Under President Bachmann you will see gasoline come down below $2 per gallon again…I won't raise taxes, I will reduce spending, and I won't vote to raise the debt ceiling. I will guarantee you I will submit a balanced budget…President Bachmann will be banning the teleprompter at the White House, you'll be getting uncut, uncensored unvarnished truth out of the White House because that’s what the American people deserve… This I vow, Bachmann, daughter of Amble!"*

* Okay, I got carried away at the end there.


Sarah Palin: Daenerys Targaryen, aka the only member of the group you remotely want to see naked; the only who snags a rugged, outdoorsy husband; the only one capable of dressing a moose or eating an entire horse’s heart raw in front of a mob of chanting, topless savages. Is the daughter of the old Mad King (John McCain). Love Drogo/Bachmann though she may, Daenerys/Palin is fully capable of smothering him/her when he/she goes all catatonic and then launching her own campaign late in the game. Impervious to fire, chummy with dragons, and born to tweet, she remains determined to take back Westeros!—er, America!

Both are also well-informed re lands lying beyond the sea.



Drogo: Sorfosor nakha she Havazzhifi Kazga. Vo hrazef laz yoma evethiz. (“The earth ends at The Black Salt Sea. No horse can cross the poison water.”)

Daenerys: Sorfosor nakho vosecchi she havazh. Sani sorfi vekha yomme havash. Sorfo athyolari anni. (“The Earth never ends at the sea. There are many dirts across the sea. The dirts of my birth.”)



"You can actually see Russia, from land, here in Alaska."


Mitt Romney: Sandor Clegan (“The Hound”) Says as little as possible while calmly assessing the yapping little contenders and pretenders vying for the throne. Who knows where his loyalties really lie? His intentions are impossible to read in his face, one side of which has been hideously burned off (which he studiously tilts away from the cameras during debates).



Joffrey (to Sansa Stark, as Sandor looks down at him impassively): After I raise my army and kill your traitor brother, I'll give you his head as well!

Sansa: Or maybe he’ll give me yours!


Rick Santorum (to Ron Paul, as Mitt looks down at him impassively): When Rick Santorum is president, Iran will not get a nuclear weapon because the world as we know it will be no more!

Ron Paul: You’ve heard the war propaganda that is liable to lead us into the sixth war, and I worry about that position!


Ron Paul: Old Nan, who tends to the paraplegic Bran Stark after his near-fatal fall. Like obstetrician-turned-doomsayer Paul, Nan synthesizes sincere desires to both care for helpless children and gratuitously scare the bejesus out of them.



"Oh, my sweet summer child! What do you know about fear? Fear is for the winter, when the snows fall a hundred feet deep; fear is for the Long Night, when the sun hides for years and children are born and live and die all in darkness. That is the time for fear, my little Lord."


"The whole reason why nobody wants to address the real problem is, we're spending a trillion dollars a year overseas running an empire, and it's coming to an end. This country is bankrupt, and we won't admit it!"


Rick Santorum: Lysa Arryn--so committed to the sanctity of the family that she has holed up with them in an aerie in the clouds, where she still breast-feeds her seven-year-old son—and home schools him, to boot. Thinks dreamy, idealized thoughts. Is insane.



"No one will hurt my baby!"


"Any doctor who performs an abortion should be criminally charged for doing so."


Jon Huntsman: Varys—a spooky, unflappable, unctuous eunuch who scrupulously avoids angering any faction. He sucks up to Ned (Obama) but tries to conceal the fact from his hard-line peers and superiors.



Varys (to Ned): We serve at your pleasure.


Huntsman (to Obama): I have enormous regard for your experience, sense of history and brilliant analysis of world events. Please save some time for me when I’m next in New York.


Gary Johnson: Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish. All for legal prostitution, God bless his heart.



"Given that prostitution takes place, the question is, ‘Are you safer engaging a prostitute in Nevada or New Mexico?’ I think you are clearly safer engaging one in Nevada in a licensed prostitution establishment."


"I’m a purveyor of beauty and discretion."


Herman Cain: King Robert Baratheon, who looks like nothing so much as a fatter version of the recently deposed Burger King mascot, thus establishing common ground in the fast food business with the Hermanator. Though a dimwit, King Robert has the endearing habit of loudly barking out his own version of the plain, unvarnished truth and thereby either firing up or outraging everyone within earshot.






"I never loved my brothers. Sad thing for a man to admit, but it's true."


"Don't condemn me because the first black one was bad."


Newt Gingrich: This one could go either of two ways. First, there’s Lord Walder Frey, a treacherous nonagenarian currently on the eighth of a succession of increasingly younger wives: thin-skinned about not being taken seriously by the bigger players; capable of negotiating better terms than he deserves. Problem there is that Lord Walder simply outlives his wives; he doesn’t dump them in their hospital beds and is, otherwise, a devoted family man.

Then there’s Samwell Tarley, a callow youth booted out of the house and sentenced to serve in the Night’s Watch at the Wall. He’s an obese and physically weak and well-read little muffin of a man amid a pack of lean, mean, bullying cretins but—well, the problem with Samwell is that he’s likable, don't you see.



"When I make a mistake, and I'm going to on occasion, I want to stand up and share with the American people, 'That was a mistake,' because that way, we can have an honest conversation."


“I’m not going to get any better, you know.”


Fred Karger: Loras Tyrell. Nice enough seeming gay feller who disappears after one scene.


Thad McCotter: Stannis Baratheon. Bald guy whose role is so insignificant that he was cut out of Season 1 altogether.


Tim Pawlenty: Too pathetic to merit a regular character, he is the Random Dothraki Guy who lips off to Khal Drogo (Bachmann) in Episode 8 just to call attention to himself, inspiring Drogo to calmly pick up a scythe and slice out his throat.



Drogo: Anha vazhok khadoes yeroon virsalat. Anha ochomok yeraan kijinosi. Inte vadakhie tikhoa ma khewo afilki vi gadimaan. Eyel varthasoe she ilekaan rikhoya arrekaan vekha vosi yeroon vosma tolorro! (“I will not have your body burned. I will not give you that honor. The beetles will feed on your eyes. The worms will crawl through your lungs. The rain will fall on your rotting skin until nothing is left of you but bones.”)

Random Dothraki Guy: A yer addrivi anna! (“First you have to kill me!”)

Drogo: Jaran ha ray jin. (“I already have.”)

Random Dothraki Guy: Yeeggghhhh! (“Arggghhhh!”)


Pawlenty: If that’s your view of effective leadership with results, please stop because you’re killing us!

Bachmann: When you were governor in Minnesota, you implemented cap-and-trade in our state and you praised the unconstitutional individual mandate and you called for requiring all people in our state to purchase health insurance that government would mandate. Third, you said the era of small government was over. That sounds a lot more like Barack Obama if you ask me.

Pawlenty: Yeeggghhhh! (“Arggghhhh!”)


Rick Perry: Prince Joffrey Baratheon. Shaggy head of hair, the attention span of an adolescent (because he actually is one), and hobbies that include ordering executions of innocent men.



"So long as I am your king, treason shall never go unpunished! Bring me his head!"


"I don't know what y'all would do to him in Iowa, but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. I mean, printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treacherous, or treasonous in my opinion."