Can Lincoln's playbook help Obama in the years ahead?





The similarities are eerie.

Both Abraham Lincoln and President-elect Barack Obama were not from Illinois but became two of the state's top politicians.

They were both criticized for being too inexperienced to become president of the United States.

Both were raised by women other than their mothers (Lincoln by his stepmother and Obama by his grandmother) and later visited the women before their respective inaugurations.

Lincoln, a Republican, and Obama, a Democrat, will be noted as relatively young presidents: Lincoln was 51 when he took office. Obama will be 47....

Even the theme of Obama's inauguration in January is adopted from a line in Lincoln's Gettysburg Address: "A New Birth of Freedom."

But Columbia University history professor Eric Foner, also a Lincoln scholar, said people should take a step back from the comparisons.

"Lincoln is a great man, and people should learn from him. But I think, as a historian, people ought to calm down a little about these comparisons," he said. "They are entirely different situations, worlds, political systems. There aren't I think a lot of exact direct lessons one can or should necessarily try to learn from Lincoln."

Foner, author of the new book "Our Lincoln: New Perspectives on Lincoln and His World," said Lincoln has become something of a model for politicians on both sides of the aisle.

"Lincoln is a Rorschach test. Everybody finds themselves in Lincoln. Everybody finds what they want to find in Lincoln. There are dozens of Lincolns out there. So saying 'I'm reading Lincoln or modeling myself on Lincoln' doesn't really tell us a heck of a lot."


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