05/13/2008 01:37 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Obama/McCain: Kennedy/Nixon or Eisenhower/Stevenson?

Perhaps because it is through telling stories that I pay my rent, but I think that humans reason via analogy and storytelling. We attempt to get a handle on the present and predict the future through comparisons to stories of the past. If someone is trying to sell us some new music they do so by analogy. Check out Amy Winehouse, they tell us. She sounds like the unisexual mating of Dinah Washington and Janis Joplin.

Presidential elections function the exact same way. With the two nominees all but certain we're now in a race to shape the story. The McCain side will draw him as the reincarnation of Ike, Montgomery and Julius Caesar, the noble philosopher/warrior who has put down his armor to come lead his people. They are already busily trying to paint Obama as Adlai Stevenson, an out-of-touch egghead, a well-intentioned but nutty professor.

The Obama side has explicitly been borrowing the JFK and RFK signifiers from the very beginning: the no tie, the youth, the embodiment of a new day.

What the Obama camp needs to do now is turn McCain into JFK's Nixon, the personification of antired old order that has run its course.

The elements are all there and more to paint a compelling and devastating picture of the Senator from Arizona.

As Arianna and others have pointed out he was long-considered the most-likable and most-open-minded of Republicans, but to become the Republican nominee his compromises have been Shakespearean in their enormity. "Shakespearean," is the operating adjective here. The story of John McCain is a tragedy of compromise writ large. The maverick once embodied all that we had hoped for in a reformist politician and to see him now neutered by the extreme right with their death grip on the Republican political machinery is heartbreaking. It needs to be pointed out again and again and again that this once proud warrior is running on a platform that he himself doesn't agree with; many portions of which he himself has voted against. Twice.

Obama needs to get us to weep for McCain as a hero who wasn't felled by our enemies but by the grinding corruption of Washington insider politics. Senator Obama needs to hold him up as the prime example of why he is running for President. To fix a system that has turned one of our brightest hopes into a defeated shell of his former self.

Obama should tell the nation that the problem isn't that seventy-year-old John McCain has been around too long -- he's just been in Washington too long.