President-elect Barack Obama is many things, including a groundbreaker in the world of Presidential politics but his obsession with comparing himself to Abraham Lincoln is starting to rub some Presidential historians the wrong way.
They say Obama’s ego is out of control when it comes to his constant comparisons of himself to Lincoln and they point to the President-elect’s brazen attempts to overemphasize his place in history.
Lincoln, they point out, was known for his humility. Obama, they add, is known more for his lack of it.
In Barack Obama’s appearance last month on CBS’s "60 Minutes," the conversation turned to the president-elect’s long-time love of Lincoln.
"There is a wisdom there," Obama told interviewer Steve Kroft, "and a humility about his approach to government, even before he was president, that I just find very helpful."
Humility? Obama’s frequent invocations of Abraham Lincoln — a man enshrined in myth and marble with his own temple on the National Mall — would not at first blush say much about his own instincts for modesty or self-effacement.
And now there 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."
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."