Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Comparative Randomness

For the love of all that is random, stop with the presidential comparisons.

Ever since it was clear that Barack Obama would win the election this past November, the media has gone wild with the comparisons to previous holders of the office. No one seems to have noticed that the comparisons aren't all that great.

Yes, President Abraham Lincoln was a great American. He did what he could to hold the Union together. His face in on Mount Rushmore. He was even from the same mid-western state of Illinois.

But President Lincoln's term in office did not end well. He was shot by an unhappy Confederate supporter.

Not a good comparison to use, given the current hostile climate created by some members of the political right.

Then there's the comparison with President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Yes, the country is currently in the middle of the Great Recession, and, just as was done in the 1930s, the blame can be put on the previous administration's inability or unwillingness to act to reverse the tide of a crashing economy.

Again, that president's term in office did not end well. That time it was of natural causes, but one could say that the stress of trying to solve the world's problems can age a person to the point that those causes aren't really all that natural.

The last comparison being made to the president-elect is that of President John F. Kennedy.

Yes, they both went to Harvard; yes, they were both relatively young when elected; and yes, both had the "enough" problem -- Kennedy was thought to be "not Catholic enough" -- among a whole slew of other comparisons.

And yet, JFK's presidency did not end well. His term in office ended on a cold day in Dallas.

No one seems to have noticed the awful thread that floats through all these comparisons: Presidents whose terms did not end with the election of someone else.

So, please world, stop making these comparisons, before someone takes them the wrong way.

Image Credit:
Obama as Lincoln: http://bagnewsnotes.typepad.com/bagnews/2007/06/your_turn_betwe.html
FDR and Obama: http://www.beyondchron.org/articles/Leftist_Obama_Critics_Should_Study_FDR_6426.html
Kennedy and Obama: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2007/jul/25/obamathenextjfk