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Breaking News: Lincoln Revived; Re-animated Corpse Refuses to Endorse Barack Obama

Damon's picture
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Barack Obama went to town a'riding on a Lincoln...

I had to blink when I saw this, but I looked in one of the papers I read, yesterday, and saw a recycled Politico 'article' concerning Obama's constant comparison to Lincoln, both by others and by himself. Most of us had noticed this Lincoln Syndrome very early on, but the media didn't just miss the narrative, they were complicit in pushing it.

But, guess what the MSM just figured out? And it's a shocker, apparently, "historians say Obama is no Lincoln." Don't worry; I'll be back when you all awake and pull yourselves off your fainting couches.

Humility? Obama's frequent invocations of Lincoln -- a man enshrined in myth and marble with his own temple on the National Mall -- would not at first blush say much about his own instincts for modesty or self-effacement.

And now there areearly rumblings of a backlash to Obama's ostentatious embrace of all things Lincoln, with his not-so-subtle invitations to compare the 44th president to the 16th, the "Savior of the Union."

Simply put, some scholars think the comparisons have gone a bit over the top hat.

Really? Just a bit?

Eric Foner, a Columbia historian who has written extensively on the Civil War era, agreed that comparing one's self to Lincoln sets a rather high bar for success, and could come off like "a certain kind of hubris."

A certain kind of hubris? How about good, old fashioned hubris? How about that kind, Mr. Foner? Obama really is special. He gets his own kind of hubris! Mr. Obama, if you can be any kind of hubris, which kind would you be?

However soothing, say historians, the main problem with channeling predecessors is that it rarely does much to illuminate a president's real choices. Usually, the similarities between different eras are superficial.

Some historians say this is an issue raised by Obama's embrace of "Team of Rivals," the history of Lincoln written by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Obama has spoken extensively about how much he values the book, and commentators have portrayed his selection of people like Joe Biden as vice president and Hillary Clinton as secretary of state as an illustration of the principle in action.

But Goodwin's book makes clear that Lincoln did not recruit rivals into his cabinet as some kind of best-practices management tool. He did it because it was the only way to keep a unified political coalition in the face of enormous ideological differences even within his own party on the main questions of the day: the future of slavery and the Union.

Now, folks, please do remember, every time you quote Doris Kearns Goodwin in any other way besides ironically, a DKG gers a new idea for a book. And by that, that should read: For the love of everything holy and good, don't quote Doris Kearns Goodwin. Though, to be more serious, she's right on the "Team of Rivals" meme.

There is nothing wrong with evoking former presidents, to be sure, though the writers of the article seem to go out of their way to slap at both Bill and Hillary Clinton for that. But, trying to be a former president presents great peril.

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Damon's picture
Submitted by Damon on

I think that the long-term unsustainability of his cabinet makes it all the more impressive that Lincoln was able to bring us through the war. His cabinent was a basket-case. American politics as it has been had come to a point of total unsustainability by the time the war came around, and we had to build back up our government on the ruins of our old system after the war.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

LOL, Damon:

A certain kind of hubris? How about good, old fashioned hubris? How about that kind, Mr. Foner? Obama really is special. He gets his own kind of hubris! Mr. Obama, if you can be any kind of hubris, which kind would you be?