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Deconstructing Obama and McCain
Comparing the candidates to literary and historical figures
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irst it was Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, said Ted Johnson in Variety’s Wilshire & Washington blog. Now John McCain’s campaign, in a new Web ad, is comparing rival Barack Obama to Moses, as portrayed by “beloved” GOP legend Charlton Heston? “Republicans have slowly been upgrading Obama in the celebrity department,” but it’s not clear that these comparisons are “altogether unflattering.”

McCain would be better off painting Obama as two-time presidential loser Tom Dewey, said Jeff Greenfield in Slate. Dewey, a Republican, lost to Harry Truman in “the most remarkable upset in presidential history” because he fit into the “enduringly mocked character type” of “the stuck-up snob.” In this telling, McCain is the “straight-talking underdog” Truman, but he could just as easily be “the feckless, grumpy old man Bob Dole.”

McCain is more the dishonest but “engaging military scamp” Wickham in Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” said Maureen Down in The New York Times. Obama is “the clever, haughty, reserved, and fastidious Mr. Darcy,” and both are vying for the affection of the American electorate, as played by Elizabeth Bennett, “spirited, playful, democratic, financially strained, and caught up in certain prejudices.”

With his charisma, glamour, and idealism, Obama evokes John F. Kennedy, said Breda O’Brien in The Irish Times, and his speechwriting is on par with Abraham Lincoln. But Obama’s main shortcoming, at least so far, is “likeability”—which Ronald Reagan “had in spades,” and which McCain has enough of that people overlook that he is “incredibly inconsistent.”

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