The things that make you boast

Obama’s team overstepped the mark in hijacking official biographies of other US Presidents to make reference to Obama.

In one foul swoop, Obama commits some cardinal political sins; denigrating history, screwing with convention, and boasting.

Obama’s over-arching strategy for the next election appears to be “Americanising” himself. His speeches are peppered with references and self-comparisons to famous admired Presidents.

As a tiny part of that strategy, Obama’s team has added paragraphs about Obama to the official White house biographies on part Presidents.

So for example; On Feb. 22, 1924 Calvin Coolidge became the first president to make a public radio address to the American people… President Obama became the first president to hold virtual gatherings and town halls using Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, etc. 

The first transgression is toward history. Now, I don’t believe history cannot be rewritten, but the re-writers need to intend accuracy. If the purpose of changes is to better serve the present political regime, then accuracy will be lost.

The second transgression is practical. This precedent could start an endless re-writing of biographies – to either wipe out previous administrations, or subsuming the original biography in a chain of additions from newer Presidents.

The third transgression is ham-fisted boasting. Simply put, the public will be the judge of whether any politician is comparable to historical figures – not them.

If politicians want to call on figures and ideas of the past, they should do it more subtly. It’s dumb to name and quote the past anything but sparingly. It treats the audience to the cheapest and shallowest of symbolism.

Politicians wanting to co-opt the past should echo the language and mannerisms, not copy them. They should rephrase and re-frame, make the language and ideas theirs. 

Excessive quoting and comparing with the past signals that a politician has a profound insecurity about themselves, and mistrust of the capability of the modern audience.

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