So on March 22, 2018, we got to this point.
The president of the United States was responding in kind to comments made by former vice president Joe Biden during a rally earlier this week.
“A guy who ended up becoming our national leader said, ‘I can grab a woman anywhere, and she likes it,’” Biden said. “If we were in high school, I’d take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him.”
No way, says President Trump. Biden “would go down fast and hard, crying all the way.”
Violent rhetoric isn’t new to politics, of course. I mean, a sitting vice president murdered former treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton in New Jersey in 1804. Another former vice president, John Breckinridge, served as a Confederate general in the Civil War, as the Guardian’s Ben Jacobs noted on Twitter — certainly something of an act of hostility toward Abraham Lincoln.
This whole thing is still stupid. As our Eugene Scott wrote, Biden’s comments were the sort of tough-guy posturing that degrades discourse generally, much less at the highest levels of governance. Trump’s rejoinder is no different and carries with it the additional side effect of not exactly bolstering the grandeur of his office.
But if we’re going to talk about Trump and Biden getting in a fight, to heck with it. Let’s talk about Trump and Biden getting in a fight. We reached out to a boxing instructor and an mixed-martial arts trainer to get their assessments of how a Biden-Trump bout would go and, more broadly, what makes someone better or worse at their respective disciplines.
Each of the experts we spoke with was presented with the following information about the combatants.
Athletic history: Baseball in high school, golf then and since
Athletic history: Baseball and football in high school
Here’s what our experts said.
Bernard Miller, Dog Pound Boxing Club, Dover, Del.
How he’d train them: “If I was training Donald Trump I would train Donald Trump to make the fight nasty,” Miller said. “It would be what we call dirty boxing. Dirty boxing is a lot of holding, grabbing, inside punches — borderline cheating. Breaking the rules.”
And Biden? “I would train my guy to be really slick. In and out. Attack and then counter,” he said.
Most importantly, though, he’d need to get the combatants to look at their opponent as a puzzle. How could they use their strengths to target the opponent’s weaknesses? There’s a mental aspect to the fight, as well, and Miller (unlike Trump) didn’t appear to see an advantage for one man over the other.
How size and experience would factor in: Trump’s size advantage, Miller said, wouldn’t necessarily be beneficial.
“It all depends on if the one boxer is in better physical shape than the other,” he said. He didn’t think that was necessarily the case with Trump. “Not that I got anything against the president,” he said, “but I’m just saying: He doesn’t look like he’s been in any physical activity ever.”
He was dismissive of the idea that Trump’s golf playing would be at all helpful or that either’s baseball-playing would be useful. (“They’ve got a bat, and they run 90 feet.”) But Biden’s background as a football halfback (and apparently a good one) might give him an edge.
“A halfback, he’s got to go, because he’s got defenders trying to get him,” Miller said, “so he’s got to work on his speed, his agility and his endurance.” What’s more, he speculated, Biden’s probably stayed in better shape as a result of that background.
Bernard Miller, who ya got? “I’m betting the bank on Biden,” Miller said.
Michael Botier, Red Dawn Combat Club, Queens, N.Y.
How he’d train them: Botier was very clear that the perception people have of MMA fighters is probably out of date.
“It’s no longer just two tough guys standing in the middle of a cage,” he said. “You have to be trained. You have to be well-accustomed to dealing with pain. Obviously, you have to have a very well-rounded skill set.” Winning an MMA bout is no longer just a function of mind-set or toughness, he said, though that was certainly part of it. But it’s also important to have the “right mental attitude” — learning how to keep their emotions in check.
Sounds like a bit of a wash for the president.
Botier went on.
“Someone who is an alpha-male type is probably going to last longer in the ring,” he said. “You have to be willing to very much have a non-quitting spirit.” Biden’s longevity in politics suggested that he had a non-quitting spirit “by definition” — but also that Trump “is not exactly someone who, A, likes to take no for an answer or, B, wants to be second to anyone.
So, given a week, how would he train each combatant?
“In the case of Joe Biden,” he said, “I would train him to get the president to the ground as fast as possible so that the president’s size works against him.” Heavier fighters have a disadvantage once taken down, particularly if they’re not perfectly physically conditioned, because they have more mass to get back on their feet — even before you consider the opponent who’s on top of them.
Trump? “I’d train him to get the knockout as quick as possible,” he said, “so that his extra size works in his favor. And also to stop the takedown.”
How size and experience would factor in: Clearly, Botier didn’t see Trump’s weight as a unilateral advantage. Like Miller, he instead focused on Biden’s experience on the gridiron.
“I would say golf doesn’t really translate” to MMA success, he said. “Football certainly translates more because the contact that someone has endured playing football — that leaves a mark mentally. You go through football, you feel pain. You also learn about yourself, your willingness to get back up when knocked down.”
“You’re much more well-prepared for the physical contact and the challenges,” Botier said. “Plus, that would work to Biden’s advantage in terms of getting Trump to the ground.”
Michael Botier, who ya got? It was a tough question, Botier said, but: “If I had to put money on it, I would put money on Joe Biden.”
“All things considered, he doesn’t carry around as much weight,” he said. “Because he is lighter and seems on the face of things healthier, he would have the advantage.”
Happily, it seems that there will be no opportunity for Botier to make that specific bet: Both Biden and Trump almost certainly enjoy talking tough more than getting into physical brawls. If you want to gamble on a battle between Biden and Trump, though, you can do so. At PredictIt, Trump’s odds of being elected in 2020 are twice Biden’s, as of writing.
Experts on campaign brawling are welcome to offer their thoughts on that in the comments.