Obama and George Washington

Interesting story on The Plank that examines Obama’s evocation of George Washington in his address. From the article:

But the most interesting thing about Obama’s use of George Washington in his speech is how differently these two political figures — the Washington of history, that is, and the Obama of the campaign — are perceived. Obama ran as a transformer, a “change agent,” and liked to drop the phrase “new birth” in reference to his political project. I got the sense this idea then galloped away from him, and he became irritated with the ensuing assumption that a Prez BHO would radically overhaul the country. But he was always seen, nevertheless, as a politician in the mold of Reagan or Lincoln (from whom, of course, the idea of a “new birth” for the country originates), and not of Washington, who made himself out as the opposite of transformative.

Washington resisted (if feebly) the early impulse to turn him into a Mosaic figure. His own First Inaugural begins in a sort of frantic lather of humility: “The magnitude and difficulty of the trust to which the voice of my country called me, being sufficient to awaken in the wisest and most experienced of her citizens a distrustful scrutiny into his qualifications, could not but overwhelm with despondence one who (inheriting inferior endowments from nature and unpracticed in the duties of civil administration) ought to be peculiarly conscious of his own deficiencies …” It was Washington who established the model of the president as a humble caretaker of the Republic, not its reshaper. He was widely seen in his day not as the most brilliantly clever man around, but as the one with the most unquestionable integrity, the kind of doorman (to use a crude analogy) you can leave your most precious jewelry with when you go away on vacation.

Link via Why’d Obama Talk About George Washington? – The Plank .