Being Anyone but Barack; Obama Should Quit Emulating Others and Find Own Identity

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Pundits and politicians, perhaps struggling to make sense of their own era, are fond of finding parallels between contemporary figures and those

from times gone by. President Obama, in particular, appears to takes great comfort from this exercise.

Such comparisons are certainly interesting and often enlightening. But though it is full of helpful lessons, the past does not always provide a workable blueprint for resolving contemporary quandaries and pointing out one's similarities to history's heroes does not exactly constitute leadership.

This corollary continues to elude Mr. Obama.

The president, seen earlier this week getting his Bull Moose on in Kansas, has indulged in an immodest progression of presidential self-comparisons that leave the distinct impression of a man unable to define his presidency and a chief executive obsessed with greatness but unsure how to grasp it.

The evocation of Theodore Roosevelt came during an address in Osawatomie, Kan., where the 26th president (then seeking another non- consecutive term in the White House) unveiled an ambitious, statist agenda in 1910. Mr. Obama used the occasion to signal, a la TR, (who listeners were reminded was branded a radical, a socialist and even a communist ) his willingness to affirm his own populism.

Perhaps this latest guise would be more remarkable if not for the fact that less than a year ago, we were told that Mr. Obama, a copy of Lou Cannon's The Role of a Lifetime strategically tucked under his arm, was Ronald Reagan reincarnate. The two recession-era presidents, you see, were transformative purveyors of sunny optimism and pragmatic brokers of grand compromise who also happened to be loners who relied on their wives - traits which, apparently, they alone share among the men who have been president.

The Reagan/Obama nexus was explored extensively in a January issue of Time magazine featuring a photo-shopped cover image of Barack yucking it up with the Gipper, which itself brought to mind an issue of the same magazine presenting a picture of Mr. Obama morphed into Franklin Delano Roosevelt. This, of course, was during the dawn of the current administration, when excited observers and historians, sensing the emergence of a new liberal order, cheered as Mr. Obama unleashed a flurry of legislative and regulatory activity to, in his own words, emulate Roosevelt's frenetic first 100 days in office.

The historical allusions, though, actually predate Mr. Obama's presidency. After all, his bid for the presidency was launched on the steps of Illinois' Old State Capitol, where the man Mr. Obama most often seems to see in his own reflection and references with great frequency, spent no small amount of time.

Of the president's various identities, none has been more enthusiastically documented or indulged than his turn as Abraham Lincoln. In addition to the Old State Capitol stunt, Mr. Obama has delivered major policy addresses at New York City's Cooper Union, where Lincoln delivered his own star-making speech in 1860, and based his inaugural travel to the nation's capital on the 16th president's journey from Springfield to Washington, only to take the oath of office on the same Bible used by Lincoln for the same purpose. …