A few years ago, I got into a heated debate with a Bush and war-supporting friend regarding the wisdom of invading Iraq. The argument was one of those in which one side refused even to listen to the other side. At one point, during a discussion of Bush’s personality, it was brought up by me that the conversation was odd, given our Star Trek preferences. We had both been members of the Star Trek fanclubs in our misguided youths, and he has made it clear to all who will listen (which really isn’t that many in the first place) that he is a Picard, Next Generation fan, whereas I am a Kirk supporter. What’s strange about this should be obvious to anyone who’s familiar with the two different captains.
Picard, played with dignity by fine Shakespearean actor, Patrick Stewart, is simply a post-Vietnam diplomat. He consults his crew and Starfleet about any decisions he makes, follows the Prime Directive to the decimal point, only engages in violence when absolutely necessary, and can speak fluent Klingon.
Kirk, played with a smirk by the walking punchline, William Shatner, is a warrior. he makes brash, unilateral decisions, acknowledges the Prime Directive as that rule he’s going to break in just a second, engages in violence whenever the opportunity presents itself, and only speaks one sentence of Klingon, which translates into “Kiss my ass.”
You see where I’m going with this. Putting aside the question of Kirk’s libido, which was positively Clintonian, there are deeper similarities to the forty-second and forty-third presidents. For example, who better to portray cold, unfeeling Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld than Kirk’s science officer, Mr. Spock, played by Leonard Nimoy; and who else in Star Trek history, other than DeForest Kelley’s Dr. McCoy, could you picture whipping around and telling a fellow member to go fuck himself, like our current vice president? Likewise, is there an awkward, dull, humorless Second-in-Command who is more like Al Gore than Picard’s Number One, William T. Riker, portrayed with remarkable height by Jonathan Frakes?
I was in a quandary, as was my debate partner. Was there one point either of us could make about our Trek of choice that would make our respective philosophies more than just lip service? Excepting, of course, the fact that Star Trek is merely fiction.
Years later, it hit me. Despite all the connections I could draw between Captain Kirk and Lieutenant Bush, there was one distinction that sums up just about everything I find wrong with the latter: James T. Kirk would never send anyone into a dangerous situation that he, himself, would not charge into. It’s that simple.
Now I feel vindicated. It’s a shame I don’t talk to that debate partner anymore. Though I know him, and he would spend hours trying to spin Bush’s draft-dodging ways into gold (or, more likely, he would point out Clinton’s draft-dodging), because admitting he is wrong is something Picard would do, but not my dear friend.