Poll Position: Powergranter

This week's Christmas-season Poll Position puts you in a position to grant a very unusual gift:

{democracy:62}

Discussion after the jump.

To clarify the question a tad, basically you are bestowing an ability on whoever legally holds the office of the Presidency of the United States. The President has the power only so long as he or she holds the office -- the moment they step down for whatever reason (term expires, impeached and resigns, injured seriously enough that the VP takes over, etc.), the power transfers completely to the new office-holder. Now let's take a look at your options, O Mighty One:

  • Brainiac Five's intellect.: Are smarter Presidents better? Intelligence won't necessarily make him or her any kinder, wiser, more insightful, more persuasive, or any of the other things that a good President needs. And if an evil person gets elected or takes power, they could use their hyper intellect to make themselves permanent President.
  • Deathstroke's tactical mastery.: Some believe that a President's most important job is fighting America's wars, and tactical mastery would certainly be helpful. You still have the problem of granting power to an evil person who could use it to enshrine themselves permanently, but that same power can also be harnessed for good. One would hope that the first President with the power would use it to set up a system that would prevent anyone else from taking advantage, but that's hard to imagine.
  • Dream Girl's precognition.: A problem foreseen is a problem it'll be easier to avert. This ability has the advantage of being non-offensive in nature, but by the same token is less directly powerful.
  • Flash's speed.: I kind of like the idea of a President who can get to lots of places very very fast, to see first-hand the kinds of problems citizens are having.
  • Green Lantern's ring.: You could basically make the President impossible to assassinate, and give him or her the power to fight actively on our military's side. But it's hard to run a country while you're flying around in tights smashing tanks with giant green mallets.
  • Hellboy's fist.: Because, you know, "PRESIDENT SMASH!!"
  • Jean Gray's telepathy.: A mind-reading President would be really, really powerful.
  • Professor Xavier's mental domination.: A scary ability in the wrong hands. Too scary for my taste. But, if you have confidence that the American system of electing Presidents is fundamentally sound and can't produce bad apples, you want them to have all the power you can muster. I just don't happen to believe we're that good at electing the right people.
  • Raven's empathic sense.: It's awfully hard to do evil when you actually can feel what the other person is feeling.
  • Superman's invulnerability.: Think of the money we'd save in Secret Service fees alone!

Basically you've got two kinds of powers here. Some greatly add to the range and scope of the President's power, while others simply deepen the abilities the person already brings to the table. I'm inclined to trust the latter group more, because power corrupts. Give anyone enough power, and the temptation to abuse it is going to be almost overwhelming. I'd hate to think of a President with Nixon's ruthlessness combined with Brainiac Five's intellect and planning ability, for instance.

With that in mind, I have to say I'd love to force the President to have Raven's empathy. Being able to sense emotions would subtly enhance the President's ability to understand, at a fundamental level, what his or her power is doing to those who it affects. I think that's going to help generate a lot of compassion and wisdom. The drawback is that it might also make it impossible for the President to make some of the gut-wrenching calls they absolutely must make from time to time. Could you drop an atomic weapon knowing -- really knowing -- that you can feel what the condemned feel? And yet it might be necessary for the survival of your country to do just that.

But what tips the scale for me is the thought that an evil person might take over. It's hard to stay evil, I would think, if you can actually put yourself in the other person's shoes completely.

What do you think?

11 Responses to Poll Position: Powergranter

  1. I voted for the intelligence (before reading your explanation because I always forget they are there X_X) but I have to agree on the empathy. I think it would give him a greater scope on how things work and what people need. It would also be good for dealing with other counties leaders to find out their feelings on things.

  2. Hellboy’s fist? I certainly wouldn’t give the president the ability to end the world…

  3. @DJ: That’s why I put my commentary below the fold, so people can react on their own without my influence first if they want.

    @Eric: You mean, you wouldn’t give the president ANOTHER ability to end the world, since he’s already got that whole nuclear football thingie.

  4. If ever there was a use for a precognition power, this is it. People blame the president for everything from the weather to the financial crisis, when he really has very little to do with it at all. But what if he could see things coming? The Fed could have clamped down on the mortgage industry a few years ago, when it could have done some good. Four particular airplanes could have been grounded and certain vermin deported in any number of pieces with no one the wiser. Bush might even have realized that Iraq wasn’t worth the trouble. The possibilities are endless. And the downside? The president gets rich in the stock market once he’s out of office, and the U. S. takes advantage of the rest of the world’s bad luck. I can live with that.

  5. Hmmm .. interesting, Bael, but how can you credit a president for preventing things that didn’t happen? Sure seems like that legacy is losing its defining moments.

    And if you can see how your actions will influence the future, this could be as dangerous as Professor X’s mental domination in the wrong hands – er, I mean head. Imagine a president who allowed few strategically subtle incidents and votes to go through that secured the future of his own agenda to vastly change America by the end of this term.

    On the plus side, that ability would make campaigns for re-election pointless. The precog prez already knows whether or not he’ll win four more years.

  6. TheNate- The future is a shaky thing though and it is defined by our actions. He may see himself winning but he would still have to do the campaigns to make sure he did.

  7. I voted for Raven’s empathy (since Captain America’s integrity wasn’t an option) because it seemed to do the least harm. But thinking about it more, almost every major choice has a downside for *somebody*, and the coarse that causes the least pain in the short term isn’t always the right coarse. A president who strives merely to minimize suffering right now could do a lot of harm in the long run. Think of all the environmental changes that need to happen to save the planet, but that cost jobs.

    Bael’s got me half-convinced on the precog thing. And who needs defining moments when things are going good anyway? Clinton was well-liked mostly based on how good the economy was when he was in office.

  8. I’m handing out powers, not credit. As long as nothing catastrophic happens, office holders are fairly well regarded, and legacies are based on accomplishments, not the things they avoided. Crises will come anyway. He’ll just have a bit more to go on to make his decisions. How much sleep did Kennedy lose over just how far would the Russians go in Cuba?
    And what is a president going to do, use a terrorist act as an excuse to gut the First Amendment in the name of patriotism? Come on, now. A normal president could get up to just as much mischief as a precog, and a precog might see the downside a bit better.

  9. William A. Peterson

    I have to go with the Precog…
    Empathy sounds great, but remember:
    Darth Vader had LOTS of empathy!
    It can cause you to take evil actions, as well as good ones…
    Remember, also, that Raven, herself, turned Evil for awhile!

  10. I’m not sure about granting the President any more power than the ones we’ve already given him, but I’m quite sure the American public would love to have the Lasso O’ Truth tied to few folks in Washington DC. 🙂

  11. i go with helboys fist, just for the hel of it. Love to see him shake hands with another president or just try to make a phone call……