Abe Lincoln was ‘actually sexy’

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Doris Kearns Goodwin is a petite person who writes about towering figures — Lyndon Johnson, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, the Kennedys.

She sat in a hushed meeting room at the University of Chicago’s hushed Alumni House, where David Axelrod asked her unhushed questions.

“People ask, ‘Why can’t Obama be more like Lyndon Johnson?’” Axelrod, director of the Institute of Politics at the university, said. “Why can’t he command the bully pulpit the way Teddy Roosevelt did?”

“The bully pulpit, the platform a politician has to mobilize citizens, has changed,” Goodwin replied. “Lincoln would write a letter to a newspaper, and it would be reprinted word for word and then pamphletized. Things changed at the turn of the 20th century.”

Presidents could be heard on phonograph records — quite good copies exist of Teddy Roosevelt speaking in a clear and precise voice — and then came radio.

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