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Meacham Hawks New Book on NBC's 'Today' by Comparing Obama to Jefferson

Appearing on Friday's NBC Today to promote his new book, Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, author and former Newsweek editor Jon Meacham made a comparison between the founding father and the current commander-in-chief: "[Jefferson] was a tall, cool, cerebral president who won re-election, who was actually really good at politics even though he didn't want to act as though he was. So there's some similarities with President Obama." [Listen to the audio]

Meacham did also use the comparison to offer some criticism of Obama: "[Jefferson] understood that to get along in Washington it was really important to understand the politics of the personal, which is something that President Obama has not been so good at. He likes to play basketball with his staff. He likes to play golf with his staff. He doesn't like to reach out to Congress."

Here is a transcript of the November 9 exchange:

7:13AM ET

(...)

WILLIE GEIST: You've written a book about Thomas Jefferson, your latest biography. How is Thomas Jefferson relevant today? Beyond the obvious that he was the founder of the country, why should we still be interested about Thomas Jefferson's life in 2012?

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: "The Art of Power"; What Lessons Can We Learn From Thomas Jefferson?]

JON MEACHAM: Because he would have totally understood the Washington of John Boehner, Harry Reid, and Barack Obama. He was a tall, cool, cerebral president who won re-election, who was actually really good at politics even though he didn't want to act as though he was. So there's some similarities with President Obama.

Jefferson was the greatest politician of the early American republic, and he understood how to get things done. In a ferociously partisan atmosphere, he knew how to be a pragmatist, he knew how to remain true to a basic view. And he understood that to get along in Washington it was really important to understand the politics of the personal, which is something that President Obama has not been so good at. He likes to play basketball with his staff. He likes to play golf with his staff. He doesn't like to reach out to Congress.

Every night the Congress was in session when Thomas Jefferson was president, he had dinner with members of Congress. That might be one version of hell for some people, but it worked because it weaved attachments to him. And it gave him a chance to actually get things done. And I think Jefferson understood how to get things done in a fractious capitol.

GEIST: Some good lessons from long ago for our politicians of today, I have to say. Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, a great new book. Jon Meacham, good to see you.

MEACHAM: Thanks, Willie.