Name That Historical Obama Analogy

Commentators compare the president to Machiavelli, LBJ, and FDR over his health care push

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Barack Obama has been compared to many other wily, intelligent politicians. But who could teach Obama a thing or two, even from the grave? Herewith, the latest, greatest historical analogies on the president.

  • No Machiavelli  Michael Lind wrote in Salon that the 16th century political theorist would be disappointed to see Obama pressing Congress for a schedule to pass a health care plan before a plan was created. "The Renaissance equivalent would have been an agreement by Florentine conspirators to set a date certain for overthrowing the Medici tyrants, and deciding only later how to do it and whom to include," Lind wrote. Machiavelli wouldn't have been surprised to see the second Democratic effort in as many decades failing though. Reformers have "enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order," Machiavelli wrote.
  • Obama-as-LBJ  Lind wrote Obama resembles the last Democrat to pass a major health care program: Lyndon Johnson, but for a bad reason. "By claiming all gain and no pain...the Democrats have created an LBJ-like 'credibility gap.' Just as the discrepancy between the Johnson administration's pretext for escalation in Vietnam and its actual strategic motives created a gap that was quickly filled by conspiracy theories," so has health care with Republican allegations it will lead to euthanasia.
  • Take a Page from FDR  "Like Roosevelt, he must talk directly to the American people," wrote author Nancy Altman in the Los Angeles Times. "He must clearly demonstrate with words and deeds, as FDR did, that he is fighting for the interests of Main Street, not Wall Street." Roosevelt's push to enact Social Security was attacked by the GOP as socialism, but he beat them by winning broad support among the public for a pragmatic solution to the problem.

  • 2008 Wasn't 1932  Jay Cost of RealClearPolitics hacked away at the Obama-FDR analogy, noting that FDR won 42 of 48 states in his first election while Obama won just 23 of 50 states. "This makes a crucial difference when it comes to implementing policy. Our system of government depends not only on how many votes you win, but how broadly distributed those votes are. This prevents one section or faction from railroading another. ... Bully for Obama and the Democrats that they have 60 Senators, but the fact remains that thirteen of them come from McCain states, indicating that the liberals don't get the full run of the show."
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