Poll Position: Powergranter

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


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?