Obama studying Lincoln, but which one will he pick?

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President-elect Barack Obama's personal identification with Lincoln, his embrace of him as a political model and his habit of quoting him have sent journalists flocking to Lincoln scholars in search of meaning.

Just what does his attraction to Lincoln say about Obama? What does Lincoln offer as a model? How relevant is that model today?

"I don't think you can really imitate Lincoln," historian Douglas L. Wilson said. But like other students of Lincoln, Wilson applauds the idea of aiming for "a kind of Lincolnian standard." At the very least, he's all for presidents making Lincoln an object of study.

Where that study leads is open to interpretation. Thanks in part to his literary brilliance, Lincoln is the most magnetic of presidents. But his appeal is in the eye of the beholder. One leading biographer, David Herbert Donald, wrote that a key to understanding Lincoln was the "essential passivity of his nature." Another historian singled out Lincoln's "ruthlessness" of purpose. Can they be talking about the same man?

To some, Lincoln signifies toughness; to others, compassion, patience, humility, wisdom, sacrifice, Machiavellian dexterity.

Here is a look at what Lincoln may offer a modern president, depending on which Lincoln one has in mind ...

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