How Would Obama and Romney Handle a Zombie Invasion?

For those of you haven't yet gone to the polls (readers outside the U.S. -- please don't go to the polls, it just wouldn't be right), and for those of you who haven't decided on a candidate (and what, by the way, is wrong with you? How indecisive can you be?) I wanted to suggest that you read my Bloomberg View column, which asks the most critical question of all: Which of the two men who want to be president is better equipped to vanquish a zombie uprising?

(Okay, the second-most important question, the first being, "How will this election affect Nate Silver's reputation"?)

I've become a bit of a zombie obsessive, thanks in good part to The Walking Dead (about which I'm in a great dialogue with The Atlantic's J.J. Gould and Scott Meslow) and I was a bit surprised that Bob Schieffer didn't ask either candidate to discuss their plans for zombie-neutralization (I'm not surprised that Jim Lehrer didn't ask the same question, because Lehrer -- well, you know the rest of the joke). The attacks of 9/11, and Katrina, and the great recession, and now Sandy, have made this question particularly pertinent: What I want most of all in a president is someone equipped to handle the sort of emergencies -- natural and man-made -- that seem to be coming at us at a faster and faster rate. From the column, which features the thoughts of Daniel Drezner, the Tufts University professor who is the Walter Lippman of zombie policy:

The mother of all 3 a.m. phone calls would begin like this: "Mr. President, very sorry to wake you, but it seems that a devastating pathogen has reanimated the dead and turned them into cannibals, and now they're feasting on the living, especially in the swing states of Ohio and Virginia. Would you like me to assemble those members of the Cabinet who aren't eating their deputies?"

A zombie invasion, although a low-probability event (only for the technical reason that zombies don't exist) represents, in the words of Daniel W. Drezner, the author of "Theories of International Politics and Zombies" and a Tufts University professor, "the perfect, protean 21st century threat -- it's terrorism and biowarfare and pandemic rolled into one."

Drezner argues that zombies are a prism through which we can understand how governments react to supreme emergencies -- of obvious relevance in an era when disaster seems to be visiting us with great frequency.

(...)

One problem a president would face, Drezner says, is that the zombie crisis, like so many today, might begin ambiguously: "When it emerges, it will be very, very hard to define exactly what the threat is."

"The problem with the undead is that they pose a nightmare for interagency policy coordination," Drezner says, noting the large number of federal organizations that would be required to fight the zombies.

So which candidate would be better equipped to make the decisions necessary to thwart this threat? To answer that question, we have to understand each man's vision of the role of the federal government.

Romney, we already know, isn't exactly enamored of the Federal Emergency Management Agency; we can assume he won't be doubling the budgets of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the National Institutes of Health, the organizations that, with any luck, would find an antidote to zombification.

Obama, on the other hand, thinks the federal government should play a primary role in disaster management, and that government is generally a force for good. But there is a downside to overly generous federal spending: Drezner argues that the chance that a zombie pathogen could escape from a government laboratory grows as federal spending increases.

To read the rest, click here.

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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