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Obama Grows a Beard

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I can't be the only one who has noticed that this President-elect who ignited his Democratic base and the world has grown in stature and gravitas since the election. Just this past Sunday, 60 Minutes broke a nearly 10-year record in viewership with the first interview with the Obamas since the election. Over 25 million Americans listened as the former junior Senator from Illinois said that he's noticed a lot more people around him now and that he's not sure the whole thing of winning it all has sunk in yet.

This is why he told Steve Kroft that he's been reading a lot more about past presidents, notably Lincoln, Kennedy, FDR, Truman, and Reagan, all classic persuader-in-chiefs. The one whose legacy draws so many comparisons is Lincoln, famous for keeping his enemies closer to the point of appointing them to his inner cabinet. But there is that other characteristic that Obama shares, even if just metaphorically.

Geoff Gehman of the Morning Cal describes Lincoln as a

high-wire diplomat who deflected criticism with humor and common sense, picked a diverse cabinet of strong rivals and promoted union in his inaugural address. He ended the speech by urging a divided nation to obey ''the better angels of our nature.''

Harold Holzer, co-chair of the U.S. Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and author of more than 30 books on Lincoln and the Civil War describes the "cultivating whiskers" during the interregnum period:

You know, he is still the only president-elect who changed his appearance between election and inauguration. I think Lincoln thought about growing a beard very calculatedly, as he did everything else. It was not just the fact that it would be inconvenient to shave; there were plenty of convenient places to shave on the tour. I think he knew he didn't take great photographs, knew the artistic media was achieving great power in spreading pictorial reassurance across the country. He thought a beard might make him seem a more wise, avuncular statesman, add more gravitas to his log cabin-to-White House story. His beard also enabled the country to not focus on the secession crisis for a few weeks, which was a relief.

Obama too has grown a beard. He appears so presidential with his solid choices, asking that those who come to work with him check their ideology and political labels at the door. His new cabinet posts will be in fuller view after Thanksgiving, but I imagine a lot of us sitting down with our loved ones this week will be satisfied not only with what's on the plate before us, but with the president-elect who will take full command on January 20, 2009.