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From Sam Fulwood III at

It’s become something of a parlor game for the chattering class to compare President-elect Barack Obama to the pantheon of presidents.

Is Obama the second coming of Abraham Lincoln? A recent Newsweek magazine cover cast Honest Abe’s long shadow behind the incoming president’s silhouette. Inside, writers Evan Thomas and Richard Wolffe found the parallels between the two men irresistible. “It is the season to compare Barack Obama to Abraham Lincoln,” they wrote. “Two thin men from rude beginnings, relatively new to Washington but wise to the world, bring the nation together to face a crisis.”

Or is Obama the reincarnation of Franklin D. Roosevelt? Time magazine thinks so, putting a fused portrait of the two men on its cover.

At times, even Obama encourages the idea that he’s channeling both of those beloved presidents. He often compares himself to Lincoln, invoking the Great Emancipator in speeches and in his very open effort to choose a cabinet with echoes of Lincoln’s “team of rivals.”

He also claims Roosevelt as a mentor. “What you see in FDR that I hope my team can emulate, is not always getting it right, but projecting a sense of confidence, and a willingness to try things, and experiment in order to get people working again,” Obama said.

Enough already with the dead white presidents. There’s an equally—perhaps more—apt yardstick by which to measure Obama: South Africa’s Nelson Mandela.

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ALSO check out a related story on called “Where Is South Africa’s Obama?”