Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Barack Lincoln

By Alan Caruba

What is with all this positioning of Barack Obama as the next Abraham Lincoln?

Obama began his campaign in Springfield, Illinois, famed home of Lincoln. He returns there periodically for other announcements, but he still vacations in Hawaii.

We’re told Obama read a book about how Lincoln put together his cabinet, including “rivals” which one must presume means Hillary Clinton. The rest of his cabinet is mostly Clinton retreads and, predictably, some have already run into confirmation problems.

Now we learn he will take a train ride into Washington, DC to emulate the way Abe arrived.

No doubt his inauguration speech will be cribbed from any number of eloquent Lincoln speeches.

What we have here is “branding.” One establishes a brand in order to sell a product or selection of products with which the consumer associates good things.

What most people associate Lincoln with is the Civil War, a conflict he pursued to the tune of more American dead on both sites of the conflict than any other. Neither party to it, Union or Confederate, really believed it would ever erupt into such a bloody slaughter of soldier and civilian alike. Both dithered about in hope of achieving a compromise before the fighting began in earnest.

Lincoln wasn’t big on compromise and, as history records, he wasn’t big on the U.S. Constitution if it got in the way of winning the war. And Lincoln was a lawyer. Not just any country bumpkin lawyer, but a very successful corporate lawyer.

To his credit, Lincoln hated slavery, but he was willing to nibble at the edges if it meant keeping the Union intact. When it became clear that wouldn’t work, he freed the slaves, but only in the Confederate States where his Emancipation Proclamation had no force of law while he permitted slavery to continue in border States such as Maryland, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania.

Whole libraries could be filled with books about Lincoln at this point in time, but it would be indelicate to point out he was an extraordinarily devious politician. Few would fault his decision to preserve the Union, but it was done at considerable cost. Few, also, realize that the real issue at hand was States rights. The States lost.

I suspect President-elect Obama knows this. I suspect that, like everything else involving his nearly two-year campaign to become President, this Lincoln-Obama alignment is no accident and is, in fact, a deliberate effort to create a public image of the incoming President as being intellectually, spiritually, and morally on a par with the revered sixteenth President.

Obama is all about imagery. The problem with that is that, after a while, people begin to demand results that will improve their lives. He won’t have to wait long to hear that. By then the campaign promises will be long forgotten, along with “hope” and “change.” Real solutions to real problems are not created by imagery.

All men who aspire to put their mark on history understood the power of imagery, from the pharaohs of Egypt to the monarchs of Europe and, today, the sultans of the oil-rich Middle East who cannot build huge skyscrapers fast enough. Obama’s “Lincoln” pageant has a faintly unpleasant quality to it; a coat-tails effect that cannot sustain itself.

Obama is no Lincoln. He only wants to drape himself in Lincoln’s aura, to appear Lincolnesque.

It’s what lies below that scares me.


TheBigHenry said...

"Few would fault his decision to preserve the Union."

I am sorry, Alan, but that qualifies as a colossal understatement. Lincoln's preservation of the Union at all cost was arguably the most important decision in American history. And that is why he is revered above all other Presidents. Without the sixteenth (NOT the twentieth) President, there would not have been a United States of America today.

Alan Caruba said...

I don't see that we are in any disagreement.

Longstreet said...

I find I must respectfully disagree with Big Henry.

Lincoln could have had the United States of America... less those states of the Confederacy. The Confederacy never wished to destroy the United States. They only wanted, and did, in fact, leave the United States, legally. There was never any intention on the part of the Confederacy to overthrow the United States government.

The fact is that Lincoln could have preserved A UNION, just not a union that included the 11 states (plus parts of two others) who decided to become... and/or join with... the Confederacy.

Obama is doing himself no good in the Southern states by draping himself in Lincolnesque disguise.

Great piece, Alan. Loved it!

J. D. Longstreet

Alan Caruba said...

Thank you, Longstreet. You explained it better than I did. Lincoln did not want secession under any terms. That is why and how he "preserved the Union."

libertyforusa said...

History might even show that Lincoln triggered the civil war by winning an election with a campaign promise of "containing" the slave practice within the seven Southern states. His election was followed by their immediate secession.

Obama seems to possess neither the humility nor honesty of Lincoln.

I think his narcissistic need to appear grand may play into this.

Brings to mind that old saying-

"You can fool some of the people all the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time!"

TheBigHenry said...

So you guys are of the opinion that secession from the Union by any state that felt it was in its best interest to do so would not have altered the successes this Union (including the former Confederate states) has experienced over the past century and a half? I don't know Mr. Longstreet, but you, Alan, surprise me.

Anyway Alan, if nothing else you and I are in disagreement about the number of Lincoln's Presidency (16 not 20). I guess when you said "Few would fault his decision to preserve the Union" you were referring to Mr. Longstreet and yourself.

Alan Caruba said...

The number of Lincoln's presidency has been corrected...with my thanks.

David Ben-Ariel said...

"I will say, then, that I AM NOT NOR HAVE EVER BEEN in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the black and white races---that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with White people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the White and black races which will ever FORBID the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together, there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I, as much as any other man, am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the White race."
- Abraham Lincoln

Alan Caruba said...

David, you have to keep in mind the times in which this quote was made and Lincoln's need to reassure voters who feared granting full rights to negroes.

David Ben-Ariel said...

Alan, I'd say those fears were well founded, as that fraud and foreigner, the African, the Kenyan Obama's election proves, besides "affirmative action," "quotas," and other forms of perverse political leverage.

Alan Caruba said...

I think we need to give Obama the opportunity to demonstrate he can do the job before we dismiss him.

I am hopeful we can all get away from the partisan anger that was so evident in both the Clinton and Bush administrations.

Politics in America has always been a bit of a blood sport, but in present times, it is harmful to the solution of problems that exceed political labels.

This is not to say I will not criticize Obama if I feel he's on the wrong track, but at the very least I will wait for him to be sworn into office.

David Ben-Ariel said...

Whether or not the fraud and foreigner can do the job is irrelevant. What is relevant is that Obama has failed to prove beyond any shadow of a doubt that he is a natural born citizen of these United States of America, disrespecting the legitimate concerns of Americans and treating our Constitution with contempt.

Obama, by willful neglect, leaves lingering doubts about him on many fronts. A proper leader would have addressed this most critical issue and put it to rest.

Obama makes himself look suspect by sealing his records and refusing to talk about it. Those who aren't partisan, who truly put America first, should demand he put up or get out.