Magazine January 25, 2010, Issue

A Most Uncomfortable Parallel

President Barack Obama makes an announcement following a security meeting at the White House in Washington, January 5, 2010. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
What Clement Attlee can teach the Right about Barack Obama

Let’s just agree that if you are looking for someone with whom to compare Barack Obama, the mid-20th-century British prime minister Clement Attlee does not come immediately to mind. Some might opt for FDR, some the Messiah, others the Antichrist or, harsher still, Jimmy Carter. Attlee? Not so much.

To start with, there’s the whole charisma thing. Attlee was the Labour leader who humiliated Winston Churchill in Britain’s 1945 election, but that victory (one of the most sweeping in British history) was more dramatic than the victor. No Obama, the new prime minister was shy, understated, and physically unprepossessing. Balding, sober-suited,

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I am reminded of one of the supervisors of my Ph.D. at UC Berkeley, Roger Tsien, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2008.

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