Suzanne Fields

Barack Obama may be becoming presidential at last. The campaign mode of supplication and imitation is fading. The new president has done his Abraham Lincoln shtick, train ride and all. He's no longer tempted to make his Saturday radio address an imitation of a fireside chat (he still sneaks an occasional cigarette, but without FDR's cigarette holder). Conservatives who were afraid to challenge his popularity, retreating to criticism on an unpopular Congress, are unlacing the gloves.

The Democrats are still trying to kick George W. around, but their boots can't any longer reach that far. Angry Republicans are continuing to grumble, but it's only a way to show they're still in the game. (Michael Steele vs. Rush Limbaugh is the halftime entertainment, without the marching bands.)

The new quarterback is calling the signals, and he'll have to face the consequences of the execution of the game plan -- if not now, soon. The tanking stock market is already his responsibility, and soon he'll face the music for how the nation's enemies react to withdrawal from Iraq, for a belated surge in Afghanistan and the rising number of casualties there.

If health care reforms only succeed in making our medicine more like Europe's, thinning the care and surrendering the edge in medical research for new cures and treatments, he'll eventually get the blame for that, too. How will the top medical schools train top people if the profession becomes one of mechanics and technicians presided over by government bureaucrats?

If everything goes right, he'll get the credit for that, too, and Obama is trying to act on the assumption of confidence -- what his grandfather told him he could learn from his father: "Confidence. The secret to a man's success." But confidence can be a trick of a con man, too, and if we become the easy marks, pulled in because we want to believe even when we know better, we'll get only what we deserve.

With political comparisons exhausted -- Lincoln and Roosevelt deserve to rest in occasional peace -- we can look to the examples of literature that measure men, for better or worse.

"Obama is precisely like Hamlet in his conviction that his eloquence proves his leadership ability and his self-knowledge," writes Sam Schulman in The Weekly Standard. "And like Hamlet's, his preparation for high office consisted of playacting, speechmaking and self-examination."


Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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