Picture of the Day: Barack Obama's Many Appearances in History

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The administration opens itself up to jokes by linking the president to his predecessors in their White House bios.

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Here is today's fun partisan Internet freakout, via Commentary:

The Heritage Foundation's Rory Cooper tweeted that Obama had casually dropped his own name into Ronald Reagan's official biography on www.whitehouse.gov, claiming credit for taking up the mantle of Reagan's tax reform advocacy with his "Buffett Rule" gimmick. My first thought was, he must be joking. But he wasn't -- it turns out Obama has added bullet points bragging about his own accomplishments to the biographical sketches of every single U.S. president since Calvin Coolidge (except, for some reason, Gerald Ford)

One particularly banal example: "On Feb. 22, 1924 Calvin Coolidge became the first president to make a public radio address to the American people. President Coolidge later helped create the Federal Radio Commission, which has now evolved to become the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). President Obama became the first president to hold virtual gatherings and town halls using Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, etc." The additions were made yesterday.

Naturally, this has produced a series of comic reactions, mostly on the right. The PhotoShop above is a high point, situating the president at the signing of the Declaration of Independence. National Review's Dan Foster has some good ideas for other additions, such as: "In the Late Neolithic, the wheel was invented. President Obama has made historic use of wheels for his many campaign trips to Ohio." The RNC put together a Tumblr with Obama inserted into anachronistic situations, although the photo editing skills leave something to be desired (here's how it's done, guys). Even the more reliably liberal Comedy Central Indecision team got into the action.

It's worth noting that these additions are tacked onto the end of pre-existing bios, rather than interpolated into the text. A White House official defended them, saying, "No biographies have been altered. We simply added links at the bottom of each page to related whitehouse.gov content, which is a commonly used best practice to encourage people to browse more pages on a site." It's true that the White House website has a great deal of partisan political content elsewhere. The question is whether it's necessary or wise to bring that into the historical section of the website. You won't see similar boosting for overtly political causes, for example, on the section of the site devoted to the White House Easter Egg Roll, notwithstanding Glenn Beck's hysterical attempts to politicize Michelle Obama's Let's Move! push. Besides, how would liberals have reacted if the Bush administration had done this? Probably with a healthy dose of disgust and derision. Turnabout is only fair.

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David A. Graham

David Graham is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Politics Channel. He previously reported for Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, and The National.

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