Meet the Press — of Westeros

Daniel W. Drezner
June 16
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at Tufts University and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Intelligence reports confirm that Danaerys Targaryen possesses dragons. This could have huge ramifications… for the makeup of Small Council and the jockeying for influence in King’s Landing. photo: Macall B. Polay

[MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT FOR SEASONS 1-4 of HBO'S GAME OF THRONES]

[NOTE: The following transcript is sponsored by the Iron Bank of Braavos.  The Iron Bank of Braavos -- interested in making Westeros and Essos  a better, richer place since the days of dragons. All we ask is our due.]

SER DAVEED GREGOR:  Thank you for tuning in.  Later in the program, we’ll be going to our Warg in the Sky to ask Aemon Targaryen how he’d be handling the crisis in King’s Landing if he was in charge.

With us to talk about recent events in Westeros are, as always, Ser Chorah Todden, chief political reporter for the King’s Landing Courier; Maester Alwyn Arrow, a former adviser to the Mad King’s failed reign and now a Distinguished Fellow at the Lannister Foundation; Daario Shay, a policy adviser to Renly Baratheon’s failed campaign for the Iron Throne, and now the founder and CEO of the Braavos-based Shay Intelligence Unit; and of course, Joe the Crabber, a key henchman in Balon Greyjoy’s failed uprising, and now a syndicated columnist at the Fleabottom Free Press.  

Gentleman, a lot has been happening in Westeros, but let’s begin with your take on the aftermath of the Trial of the Century here in King’s Landing. Ser Chorah, how do you think King Tommen Baratheon has handled the fallout?

SER CHORAH TODDEN:  It doesn’t look good, Ser Daveed.  His uncle Tyrion’s murder spree in the Red Keep and his escape from King’s Landing has exposed just how precarious the security situation is in the capital — and just how thin the King’s bench really is for replacement advisers.  He’s going to have to combat the perception that he’s unable to preserve order in the capital, much less the rest of the Seven Kingdoms.

JOE THE CRABBER:  Look, can I just say what everyone is secretly thinking?  All of Westeros misses King Joffrey’s bold brand of leadership.

[lots of crosstalk]

DAARIO SHAY:  I recognize that one gains a softer view of the dead as the long summer passes, but I think it’s still safe to say that Joffrey’s leadership was … somewhat erratic.

JOE THE CRABBER:  Reasonable people can disagree over just how many mistakes were made during his reign. But may the Gods strike me down, he was a leader!!  He knew what he wanted, and he was decisive about it.  The War of the Five Kings? Mission accomplished!! Look at how he stood on the barricades in the Battle of the Blackwater!

MAESTER ALLWYN ARROW:  There’s no evidence to back up that sorry legend!

JOE THE CRABBER:  Next you’ll be asking me to produce King Tommen’s long-form birth certificate!!

DAARIO SHAY:  I’ve talked to my sources in the Small Council, and all of them swear that Tommen remains very much in charge, asking the right questions, and prodding his advisers to do and not analyze. He’s very much the leader — and smart enough to rely on Grand Maester Pycelle to make sure the ravens fly on time.

SER CHORAH TODDEN Much as I hate to agree with Joe, there is a point where a leader has to act — and I don’t see Tommen doing it. There’s a growing perception among some bannermen that the influence of the Iron Throne isn’t being used to its full effect. Despite Petyr Baelish’s best efforts when he was the Master of Coin, the Seven Kingdoms grows ever deeper in debt to the Iron Ba-

SER DAVEED GREGOR:  Let’s move on to a story below the headlines. We’re hearing reports from Castle Black that a massive wildling attack was repulsed at some cost, and that Stannis Baratheon — hey, remember him? — might have played a key role in the victory. Daario, how concerned should we be about the wildling threat?

DAARIO SHAY: Well, the Stannis circus aside, this is just further evidence that the entire Baratheon dynasty has let the Wall fall into disrepair. This is what happens when you skimp on infrastructure spending to fund elaborate party after elaborate party to please the King’s Landing elites.

JOE THE CRABBER:  Frankly, I’m more interested in how this impacts the ongoing rivalry between Lord Baelish and Lord Varys on the Small Council.

[Various murmurs of agreement]

MAESTER ALLWYN ARROW:  Varys has a vast intelligence network and a vast intelligence himself. But I fear his … shortcomings might function as a ceiling on his political ambitions. And he’s been keeping a rather low profile as of late.  Littlefinger, on the other hand, seems to move effortlessly from success to success. He’s like the anti-Tyrion!!

SER CHORAH TODDEN:  I bet even Tyrion’s erstwhile bride Sansa Stark would agree with that.

[Much laughter]

SER DAVEED GREGOR:  What about the wildlings?

JOE THE CRABBER:  The wildlings are as much of a paper tiger as the Starks. Everything coming from the North could be solved if only King Tommen would send The Mountain up there rather than relying on the Boltons to pacify any remaining insurgencies. He’d smash any Northern resistance the way he smashed Prince Oberon’s fa–

MAESTER ALLWYN ARROW: I think the problems of the North are far deeper and more nuanced than you suggest.

JOE THE CRABBER:  Oh, please. Next you’ll be telling me that White Walkers exist in real life and that winter is coming.

MAESTER ALLWYN ARROW:  It’s a well-established consensus that temperatures have fallen in Winterfell for five straight year–

JOE THE CRABBER:  Northerners have been saying that winter is coming every month since I was a wee crabber — a consensus of Northerners doesn’t make something a fact, it makes it an ideological feedback loop.  This is just a plot to destroy our way of life South of the Neck.

SER DAVEED GREGOR:  Finally, we have reports from across the Narrow Sea that Daenerys Targaryen is amassing a large army, a formidable group of advisors, and some fire-breathing dragons at her beck and call.  Could she be ready this time to mount a campaign to retake Westeros?  Ser Chorah, your thoughts?

SER CHORAH TODDEN:  She might be unstoppable at this point, Ser David. Bit by bit, she’s stitched together a remarkably diverse coalition. She’s combined elements of the Unsullied and the Dothraki for her ground game. She’s tapped the deep pockets of YunkaiMeereen, and Astapor for her war chest. And then there are the dragons. She’s no longer just trading in on her highborn name — her freedom agenda has resonated throughout Slaver’s Bay. She will pose a formidable challenge going forward to the entire political class here in King’s Landing. 

JOE THE CRABBER:  Here’s the cardinal rule of politics in Westeros: Everyone looks like a better leader the further away they are from King’s Landing. The closer they get closer to the Iron Throne, though, the more sullied they seem. We’ve heard Ser Chorah’s line about the supposed “inevitability” of Daenerys Stormborn before. She was supposedly in charge of a large Dothraki army … that abandoned her. I’m hearing reports that she recently fired her chief political adviser. Dany is a brittle leader who’s organization will fold before she crosses the Narrow Sea.

MAESTER ALLWYN ARROW:  I do wonder if we’re taking the Targaryen girl a bit too seriously. I’ve seen her on the Warg Reports, and you know what?  She just isn’t empathetic enough.  She’s brittle. She constantly complains in interviews about how hard her life in exile has been. Joe’s right — that won’t play well in Fleabottom. It’s like she was designed by the highborn one percent, rather than the key middle class blacksmiths and innkeepers.

DAARIO SHAY:  Also, why doesn’t she ever change her breastplate?

SER CHORAH TODDEN:  As always, it will come down to the crucial Dorne Kingdom.

SER DAVEED GREGOR:  We have to go to break now. Coming up next:  a celebration of sorts. It’s Grand Maester Pycelle’s 750th appearance on our program!! This time, he’ll be on to explain why he thinks force is necessary to wrest the Iron Islands away from the Greyjoys. Remember, if it’s Monday, then it’s … Meet the Press of Westeros.

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