The Westeros Wing: Meet ‘Game of Thrones’ Real-Life D.C. Counterparts
Sure, Game of Thrones is escapist fare par excellence, an epic fantasy filled with wildlings, White Walkers and deadly wedding receptions. But everyone knows that HBO's hit show is also the best metaphor around for American politics, a curdling cesspool where power-mad sociopaths and double-dealing hacks run the show and anyone with a shred of idealism or integrity is food for dragons — just like on Meet the Press. Sometimes the symmetry between GoT and D.C. is almost uncanny. Here are a few examples.
Arya Stark/Liz Warren
Two righteous crusaders, fighting a lonely battle against omnipresent evil that has destroyed everything they hold dear. The youngest Stark daughter is up against the Lannisters, who've systematically slaughtered her family; the senior Senator from Massachusetts is up against Wall Street and its GOP allies, who've systematically destroyed the American middle class. "People feel like the system is rigged against them, and here is the painful part — they're right, the system is rigged," Warren famously said, with a sense of resigned outrage the sword-wielding tween would certainly understand. And it's not hard to imagine Warren putting herself to sleep at night Arya-style, with a whispered roll call of the economic evildoers she will one day affix to the business end of her legislative broadsword.
Grand Maester Pycelle/John McCain
He's deep into his Depend years, doddering, senile and wrong about pretty much everything. But when it's Sunday talk-show time in Westeros, codger-y court pundit Grand Measter Pycelle always gets the best bookings, ready to dispense sage wisdom on which kingdom to invade or who ought to get slipped a nightshade Mickey. He meanders, he dithers, he drools into his wine cup, and in the end he always comes up with policy advice that somehow falls exactly in line with whatever consensus move the most reactionary powers-that-be already had planned hours before he puttered into the room. Does any of this sound familiar?
Mance Rayder/Rand Paul
Two brave, vaguely unhinged voices from the freedom-loving frontier of libertarian revolution. (Their first names are even kind of the same.) Mance Rayder is that independent thinker who left the Night's Watch to build a maniac coalition out of the far-flung hairball snow tribes that reside Beyond the Wall – something akin to the magic Rand Paul pulled off sewing together his insurgent crazy-quilt of "Audit the Fed" freakniks, gun nuts, Atlas Shrugged stoners and isolationists. And the Kentucky senator would really do well in Westeros, given that everyone there is on the gold standard. So, it's odd, then, that while the "Show Your Support" page on his new presidential website has buttons marked "Runners For Rand," "Musicians For Rand" and "Jewish for Rand," among many others, there's no "Wildlings For Rand" option — yet.
Olenna Tyrell/Lyndon B. Johnson
If only today's politics had master negotiators like these two fool-playing, nut-cutting, power-brokering wheeler-dealers. In the first volume of Robert Caro's epic, multi-part Johnson biography, an old LBJ associate says that when the future president first hit Washington D.C., even his close friends were never sure if he was a liberal or a conservative; the Texan excelled at telling whoever he was schmoozing up whatever it was he knew they wanted to hear at that moment. Same goes for the aged, ageless matriarch of the Tyrell family, who seems able to play everyone in King's Landing like a fiddle. "I always take figs mid-afternoon. They help move the bowels," Olenna informed us in Season Three. She should mix business and pleasure, and start taking meetings while sitting on the toilet like LBJ did.
Tyrion Lannister/Bill Clinton
Two avid sensualists and perennial comeback kids – slyly brilliant, politically indestructible no matter how ugly and craven their enemies get and, of course, smooth as the finest silk a Lannister can buy when it comes to the ladies. Like Bill, Tyrion got in some hot water for tomcatting around with an office aid (whose posthumous memoir, Shae's Story, we're hoping will be released later this year). Like Tyrion, Bill outsmarted his enemies and bounced back from a trumped-up impeachment trial to fight again another day. They've got their flaws — but to love each man is to love his transgressions, and we can never get enough of these two rascals even if they drive us crazy sometimes. "Once you've accepted your flaws, no one can use them against you," Tyrion once said. We think we saw that on a Clinton campaign bunker sticker back in 1996.
Joffrey Baratheon/George W. Bush
We are in no way trying to insinuate that the 43rd President of the United States is the kind of guy who'd string up a hooker in his bedchamber and pump her full of hunting arrows; even Skull & Bones guys don't party that hard. Nor are we are even remotely suggesting that George Sr. and Babs might be brother and sister (though you never know with rich people). But obviously Joff and G-Dub have a lot in common. Both of these spoiled little lords-turned-wannabe tough guys brought untold suffering on a great many peoples thanks to nothing more than their impetuous bratty dickishness. "We've had vicious kings, and we've had idiot kings, but I don't think we've ever been cursed with a vicious idiot for a king," Joffrey's uncle Tyrion tells him in Season Two. If only John Kerry had a line like that ready to go in one of his 2004 presidential debates.
Daenerys Targaryen/Barack Obama
Sometimes it seems like these are the only two sympathetic characters in their respective dramas, and they've definitely got the toughest gigs around. Daenerys and Obama transcended alluringly obscure backgrounds, uphill beginnings and an almost existential sense of placelessness to attain great power, comporting themselves with a placid ease and polite charm that masks a bold, calculated determination. And like Barack, Dany represented the inchoate promise of historically transformative change only to get ground down by the day-to-day reality of political leadership. She tried to end slavery; he tried to give everyone health insurance. She has to control her dragons; he has to keep a leash on Joe Biden. You gotta pay the cost to be the boss – let's just hope making it across the Narrow Sea isn't as hard as doing something real about climate change.
The White Walker/Sarah Palin
These days, most people believe the White Walker only exists as a mythic creature, go-to material for lazy wet nurses when they're short on scary bedtime stories. But oh, no: the pale-faced beast from Beyond the Wall was once all too terrifyingly real – for a while, it seemed like it might get its own TV talk show. In fact, the apparition that calls the icy tundra its home was back in the news just last summer, when its family got in a huge drunken brawl at a 4th of July BBQ. Of course, the incident got blown way out proportion. But what do you expect? The lamestream media has always had it in for the Walker.