Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Second Thoughts on Mead on Obama

I just went back and read that superb Walter Russell Mead piece on Obama of which I spoke highly last week.  It's still good, but something caught my eye which I'd missed before. Specifically:
The adulation lavished on a one-term senator of little life experience was not a good thing for anyone.  For Obama, it fed an already enlarged self-esteem that had become grotesque by the inauguration.  A cruelly accurate piece by Jonathan Last in The Weekly Standard highlights the ghastly series of intentional evocations of Lincoln that a delusionally imprudent White House team put forward in the flush of victory.
Important note to all future denizens of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue: Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first compare to Abraham Lincoln.  Comparisons to Washington, Lincoln, or to either Roosevelt, if any, should come from other people, never from you or from anyone on your payroll — and preferably should come late in a presidential term, not when the incumbent still has that shiny new president smell.
Cute enough in itself but with this qualifier: one President who never in his lifetime enjoyed Linconesque adulation was Lincoln himself.  Nearly always out of synch with his opposition party, some of  his own party, many of his countrymen, and the commander in chief in a not-very-popular war, Lincoln by the summer of 1864 fully expected to wind up a one-term holder of his high office, his dreams in tatters.

I certainly hope Obama doesn't have to suffer Lincoln's fate to become revered.  Still, there's a little voice in my mind that looks at Lincoln in 1864 and says "he's no Obama."


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