[T]here are early rumblings of a backlash to Obama's ostentatious embrace of all things Lincoln, with his not-so-subtle invitations to compare the 44th president to the 16th, the "Savior of the Union."Of course, one must remember that Wilentz is persona non grata in the historical profession. Don't know about Foner.
Simply put, some scholars think the comparisons have gone a bit over the top hat.
Sean Wilentz, a scholar in American history at Princeton, said many presidents have sought to frame themselves in the historical legacies of illustrious predecessors, but he couldn't find any examples quite so brazen.
"Sure, they've looked back to Washington and even, at times, Jackson. Reagan echoed and at times swiped FDR's rhetoric," said Wilentz. "But there's never been anything like this, and on this scale. Ever."
Eric Foner, a Columbia historian who has written extensively on the Civil War era, agreed that comparing one's self to Lincoln sets a rather high bar for success, and could come off like "a certain kind of hubris."
"It'd be a bit like a basketball player turning up before his first game and saying, 'I'm kind of modeling myself on Michael Jordan,'" he said. "If you can do it, fine. If you're LeBron James, that'll work. But people may make that comparison to your disadvantage."
As it happens, Obama may find this an entirely apt comparison.
"I'm LeBron, baby," he told a Chicago Tribune reporter at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. "I can play on this level. I got some game."
That kind of preening highlights a risk that many presidents have encountered as they gaze in history's mirror.
Monday, December 15, 2008
From the Politico: