With so many comparisons to FDR in President Obama's first 100 days in office, we asked four presidential historians who else Obama reminds them of. In an online discussion forum at TheAtlantic.com today, we got some good responses.
The coolness of John Kennedy, the sweeping agenda of Lyndon Johnson, Lincoln's team of rivals, and Reagan's ability to communicate a vision all came up as historical parallels for the new commander in chief.
Here are some of our panelist's comparisons:
Michael Kazin of Georgetown University says Obama wants to be a transformative president, and comes into office after a predecessor whose "utter failure" is unraveling the opposing coalition, much like Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, FDR, and Reagan.
Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Lincoln biography Team of Rivals and an assistant to Lyndon Johnson, sees JFK's ironic detachment, LBJ's appetite for sweeping change and desire to capitalize on a big political moment, and Lincoln's team-of-rival philosophy, most notably in Obama's nominations of Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates, Judd Gregg, Bill Richardson, and Joe Biden to Cabinet positions.
Richard Norton Smith of George Mason University doesn't like measuring a president 100 days in, but so far he sees FDR and Reagan in Obama: like those presidents, Smith said, Obama has earned the title of "Great Communicator" for his communication skills and vision, and he brings a similar "almost otherworldly sense of calm amid chaos" to the job.
Alan Brinkley of Columbia University said George W. Bush has perhaps influenced Obama the most out of any past president, as Obama has needed to repudiate him. Brinkley sees FDR and Lincoln in the crises of Obama's presidency, LBJ's ambition and reluctance to wait for things to happen, and JFK's coolness, elegance, and blend of matter-of-factness and oratory.
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