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The Boundless Absurdity of Sean Wilentz

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About the only takeaway from this piece is that Sean Wilentz’s hold on the title of Greatest Wanker in the American Historical Profession remains secure for another quarter. The article itself is quite awful in its own right. Its thesis is little more than a secularized version of “The One” ad that McCain ran this past summer; readers are supposed to cluck and shake their heads over Obama’s occasional (and not particularly grotesque) invocations of Abraham Lincoln, yet Harris and Burns can’t actually come up with more than a few stray examples of Obama’s “preening” historical audacity. They do, however, manage to elicit this golden moment from Wilentz:

Sean Wilentz, a scholar in American history at Princeton, said many presidents have sought to frame themselves in the historical legacies of illustrious predecessors, but he couldn’t find any examples quite so brazen.

“Sure, they’ve looked back to Washington and even, at times, Jackson. Reagan echoed and at times swiped FDR’s rhetoric,” said Wilentz. “But there’s never been anything like this, and on this scale. Ever.”

Right. It’s not as if we’ve had presidents in recent history who’ve tried to rationalize illegal, pointless wars by wrapping themselves in Brokavian “Greatest Generation” nostalgia, or by essentially claiming that George Washington would have approved of such ventures, or by arguing that the logic of preventive war somehow bears comparison to the Truman Doctrine. Because if we’d have had to put up with that sort of self-aggrandizing crap, Obama’s self-professed reliance on Abraham Lincoln for “inspiration” would seem too insignificant to merit attention.

On the other hand, if Obama would merely content himself with worshipping JFK or Andrew Jackson, all would be forgiven!

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