Tonight's Matchup: Clinton vs. Vader

By Kevin Bertram
web posted September 1998

I'm usually immune to mindless consumer feeding frenzies. When Star Wars originally came out, none of my friends in our trailer park had any Han Solo action figures. When the Cabbage Patch craze hit I viewed them as hideous creations not worthy of being used as a post-bowel movement implement. More recently, I've had a hard time distinguishing between a Tickle Me Elmo and a teddy bear with a vibrator up its ass. But in the last five years I've been collecting Star Wars figures in a way that would put the comic book store manager from the Simpsons to shame. I've actually salivated over pictures of pre-production models of figures that were never produced while forking over a couple hundred dollars for a handful of hard-to-find items. My fiancé told me that she had never seen this kind of devotion in a normal person, let alone a droid. I realized that she was right. I mean let's face it- not to be blasphemous, but is Star Wars really such a great movie that a few action figures make me as excited as Mayor Marion Barry on his way to a crackhouse? Honestly, Mark Hamill's acting ability is barely a notch above Randy West's. The poor stormtroopers, mostly guys who probably joined up for the excellent Imperial GI Bill benefits, are dehumanized in a way that would appall any Harvard social sciences professor. And Return of the Jedi has those silly Muppets taking out the Empire's elite high tech forces with rocks and vines. Come on.

But when I saw a preview for Star Wars last summer before Independence Day, I realized the source of my obsession. Whenever Darth Vader was on screen I felt this weird rush of blood to my head. And when I heard his voice I actually felt my nipples tingle. At first I thought it might be some sick sexual thing and considered seeing a therapist. However, a week later, I saw the preview again and then realized it wasn't a sexual thing at all. During the preview, when Lord Vader says, "there will be no one to stop us this time," what I wanted so badly was to be part of that "us". People who know me might find it surprising that I would be seduced by such an authoritarian, considering all the time I spend mouthing libertarian propaganda. But as I get older, fatter, and contemplate my impending doom, I mean marriage, I understand that what I really want is a leader who will, "lower taxes, brutalize criminals and rule me like a king." Who better than Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith?

Which brings me to the point of this piece. Would Darth Vader be a good, say, President of the United States of America? If my "borrowed" Lexis codes still worked, I'd research the criteria that historians use to evaluate and rank past presidents. But since they don't work and since more people will catch my jokes about President Clinton than former President Polk, I've decided to compare the current Clinton Administration with a hypothetical Vader Administration. But before I make that comparison, I want to make it perfectly clear that nowhere in this piece are there any veiled references to Bob Dole. His Lordship will be evaluated only on his own merits in the following three areas: personal ethics, foreign policy and domestic policy.

On most ethical considerations, Vader seems to beat Clinton hands down. I can't imagine His Eminence asking Paula Jones to "kiss it," or asking Gennifer Flowers to, well, do anything sexual at all. Nor can I see Vader trading in strangely profitable commodities or investing in shady land deals. But the crucial aspect of character is honesty. I think I'm safe in saying that Clinton is a big fat liar. However, like any political leader, Lord Vader has also gone back on his word a few times. For example, his arrangement with Lando in The Empire Strikes Back. But at a gut level, Darth Vader seems more trustworthy. I guess Vader did flip-flop twice on the whole good vs. evil argument, but that's hardly an important issue for a U.S. President. And while he might crush people's windpipes and endorse the destruction of whole planets, nobody's perfect. The decisive difference is that Darth Vader has honor while Bill Clinton does not.

But how would Vader's beliefs and ethics affect foreign relations? I think his willingness to use terror to achieve his ends places him firmly within the Kissinger-Hamas school of international relations. I just can't see any tinpot dictator messing with us if he knew he had to deal with someone who eats Jedi Knights for breakfast. Compare this potential tough-nosed foreign policy with the willy-nilly, half-assed interventionist policies of Clinton that have resulted in such glorious spectacles as Bosnia, Somalia and Haiti. Point Dark Lord.

One area of foreign policy where the Clinton Administration has done a decent job is free trade. His efforts on both NAFTA and GATT have been pretty damn good. But think of the trade deals a President Vader could negotiate. If he didn't feel like terrorizing Japan into opening their markets more, he could use the Jedi mind trick to deliver the goods. (Editor's Note: During editing, we discussed whether or not evil Jedis have this power. According to Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game (second edition), Darkside force users are not prohibited from using the force skill "Affect Mind." Don't ask who owns the book that was consulted.) With his strong leadership and excellent treaty "negotiating" skills, Vader beats Clinton hands down in foreign policy concerns.

While foreign policy is a clear Vader strength, domestic policy seems to be a toss-up. Crime usually is considered an important domestic issue. (Most politicians are against crime.) Although its unclear to what extent, crime has subsided some during Clinton's time in office. While this might be due more to certain mayors' and governors' efforts than to midnight basketball leagues (which seem to conflict with Clinton's call for curfews), Clinton deserves some credit. All that Vader has to offer is a promise to "bring order to the galaxy." Hell, I'd be thrilled if Vader could bring order to Southeast DC. But because of his achievements, I think Clinton gets the edge on this one.

Clinton's edge on the crime issue is more than outweighed by Vader's advantage on entitlement reform. Clinton has pushed through a watery welfare reform over the objections of the politically weak welfare mothers' lobby, but has bowed down to the powerful AARP on the issues of Social Security and Medicare reform. I wonder how powerful the AARP would be after Vader crushed a few AARP lobbyists' windpipes. God, I hate those rich old people who strangle the system with their greedy gnarled hands. And why do those bastards who drive down to Luby's in their Lincoln Town Cars get senior citizen discounts while some lower-middle class family struggling to feed their kids has to pay full price? But I digress. Suffice to say that I think Vader would have the will to overcome the political obstacles to entitlement reform in a way that Clinton has failed to do.

The final domestic issue of importance, at least to me, is civil rights and personal freedoms. Clinton's record here is not too stellar-- expanding wiretaps, opposing medicinal marijuana laws, federalizing all kinds of crimes, frying religious nuts. But at least Clinton speaks the rhetoric of liberty, even if he is only devoted to the notion as much as he is devoted to the First Lady. Vader's record appears to be worse. Torture isn't exactly on the ACLU list of approved activities. I guess it would be culturally imperialistic of me to impose my Western values on Vader since his background is much different than mine. Therefore, I'll minimize the importance of civil rights, narrowly give it to Clinton, and call domestic policy overall a wash.

Because of Lord Vader's personal ethics and foreign policy skills, he clearly would be a better president than Clinton. In fact, I'm ready to sign up with the Vader campaign.

Or maybe I should just get out more often.

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