From the old board, I launched the "President Luthor" thread with this post (July 21, 2003):
At my last visit to my friendly neighborhood comics shop, I say the President Luthor trade paperback. I haven't read the Superman titles for several years (heresy, I know), and the notion of Lex Luthor becoming President of the U.S. wasn't enough to entice me back.
It's a nifty idea, I'll admit ... but the time to do it was very shortly after the Crisis/John Byrne reboot, when the notion of Luthor-as-business-mogul was still fresh and he hadn't amassed a history of dirty deeds that we readers know about, even if the good folks of the DC Universe don't.
But he has that history ... so how come the heroes of the DCU let him run for office without exposing him? I know that with great power comes great responsibility, and the heroes shy from influencing public policy and all -- but C'MON! He's a villain! They couldn't say ANYTHING? So what if he'll sue them!?! Truth is an absolute defense against libel, at least in this country.
I was curious about whether Luthor had won the election honestly -- or at least legitimately. If he rigged the election somehow, that's even more reason for the heroes to take a hand.
So I thumbed through the book. There was a story in which Luthor hires Talia to run is business empire -- after staging an attack on her condo by armed assassins and having her rescued by his favorite leg-breakers, Hope and Mercy. Talia doesn't swallow the obvious setup, but he answers, "If you think I would engineer the deaths of 17 men just to impress you, you are deluded."
I don't swallow it either. And I also don't swallow how he can hire Talia and explain to The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, Forbes, Fortune, Louis Ruskeyer and Maria Bartiromo how somebody with no track record in business becomes the CEO of a multinational business empire.
Then we get into Luthor's announcement that he'll run, and there are a lot of people, Perry White among them, murmuring that "he'll probably win," just like that. Then we see Luthor get shot -- and apparently, he's swept into office on a sympathy vote. The next thing is Superman at a photo op congratulating Luthor on his win.
With that, I put the book back on the shelf. I couldn't stand it any more. Now, I wasn't necessarily expecting the story to be realistic (You know what I always say about that, don't you? Say it with me: "Whenever someone speaks of making comics 'realistic,' more often than not they mean doing something that takes all the fun out of them."), but there are a LOT of problems with the notion of Luthor-as-president that have to be addressed, and such a story requires the writer to do a LOT of heavy lifting to get me to buy into it. Here, it seems, they didn't even try.
For openers: I didn't see even a hint of an opponent, which is, y'know, a given in a presidential race. There's never a shortage of people who will run. I don't have any trouble with the idea that Luthor would want the job; few positions in life have the stature of the Presidency. On the other hand, I think there are a number of people prominent in public life who might want the job, but have no stomach for campaigning for it. I would have put Luthor in this category, but if he decided to go for it, well, fine. After all, there's only one man who became President without actually running in a national campaign. (Gerald Ford -- you weren't thinking of someone else, were you?)
I didn't see a declaration of party by Luthor. If he ran as an independent, well, there are a number of hurdles he'd have to meet to get on the ballot in all 50 states. With his money and resources, he could do it, but one can't assume that he can just sign a check and it's done. We have a two-party system in this country, in large part because members of those parties, once elected to office, have enacted lots of laws at every level of government -- federal, state, and local -- to keep it that way. (The Constitution itself says nothing about parties.)
Which is the other thing: How does Luthor counter the opposition from constituent groups that have thrown in with one party or the other and will mobilize in support of their chosen candidate? How does Luthor win any of them over? How does Luthor win the voters over? Getting shot might win some sympathy, but if that was enough, George Wallace would have been elected in '72, not Richard Nixon.
Speaking of Nixon -- the good Captain has often stated that the Daily Planet should do a Watergate on Luthor. Fine, but I believe that they shouldn't have waited until after the election; they should have gone after him the moment they had any inkling he was going to run. Once he was a declared candidate, they should have hit him with everything including the kitchen sink ... and the stove, the dishwasher, the refrigerator, the cabinets, the pots and pans, and every plate, cup, saucer, fork, knife and spoon.
Which, of course, happens anyway in a presidential race. No matter how much press coverage anybody gets as a public figure, becoming a candidate ratchets it up a notch or three. A serious candidate can expect that, at minimum, The New York Times, The Washington Post -- and the OPPOSING PARTIES -- will document anything and everything he or she has said and done in his entire life.
Can Luthor stand up to that much scrutiny? Of course not, and I can't believe he would put himself in such a position to be exposed.
And I haven't even mentioned all the babbling from the pundits on the cable news channels and the bleating from talk radio, and the Iowa causes and the New Hampshire primary and etc., and so on and so forth.
Nor have I mentioned Luthor's past -- such as destroying the city of Metropolis in Action Comics #700. How does a candidate for the presidency explain something like that away?
To be fair, as I mentioned before, I haven't been reading the Superman titles, so I don't know if any of these points have been addressed. Have they? Have the holes in this scenario been filled? Am I off base in criticizing this? Should I give it a chance?
Stepping off the soapbox now ...
-- ClarkKent_DC (who is grateful that he never covered politics)