In pop culture, everyone loves Abe





Abraham Lincoln was born 198 years ago today, but his melancholy visage has perhaps never been as popular. He's the star of television commercials -- including one in which a beaver is his co-star -- and is the subject of at least eight recent books, with more on the way. A motion picture directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Liam Neeson is in the works.

Politicians, too, are getting in on the act. Officials ranging from Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, who launched his presidential quest Saturday in Springfield, Ill. -- where Lincoln honed his political skills and is now entombed -- to Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold are invoking the martyred president.

Some of the interest is based on the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth in 2009, as well as new insights into the Civil War president's medical, marital and mental issues. But experts say there's more to the renaissance of Lincolniana -- such as a nation weary of war and yearning for trusted leadership.

"So much of what we think of him is happening in our own time," said Joshua Wolf Shenk, author of the recently published Lincoln's Melancholy.

"He met and wrote to widows. He had the courage to acknowledge his responsibilities," Shenk said. "He was open and available in the White House, compared to our increasing fast-food politics."


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