ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Lincoln Dedication Speeches

President Bush and the two Senators from Illinois (Durbin / Obama) gave speeches yesterday to commemorate a new Lincoln library & museum in Springfield, Illinois.

I haven't been able to find the actual speeches yet, but the following excerpts are interesting to compare/contrast.

Bush compares Lincoln's situation with the NYTimes today with his own (humorous):

Bush also noted that Lincoln wasn't always the darling of the press.

"In a small way, I can relate to the railsplitter from out West because he had a way of speaking that was not always appreciated by the newspapers back East," the president said, generating laughter. "A New York Times story on his first inaugural address reported that Mr. Lincoln was lucky 'it was not the constitution of the English language and the laws of English grammar that he was called upon to support.'

"I think that fellow is still writing for the Times," Bush said.
Bush discussing spread of freed and universality of Gettysberg Address:
President Bush, a Republican like Lincoln, also is a wartime president, and his speech drew parallels between Lincoln's effort to expand freedom in the United States and Bush's own goal to expand freedom in the world.

"Americans have no right or calling to impose our own form of government on others," Bush said. "Yet, American interests and values are both served by standing for liberty in every part of the world. Our interests are served when former enemies become democratic partners, because free governments do not support terror or seek to conquer their neighbors. Our interests are served by the spread of democratic societies, because free societies reward the hopes of their citizens, instead of feeding the hatreds that lead to violence."

Durbin making an inappropriate remark (good thing he doesn't have an R after his name):
However, Durbin may have gone too far on the levity scale when he retold a story about the late federal Judge Abraham Lincoln Marovitz of Chicago, whose collection of Lincoln books is included in the presidential library's holdings.

"Judge Marovitz used to say that his mother believed that President Lincoln was Jewish," Durbin said. "After all, his first name was Abraham, and then, to confirm it, she learned that John Wilkes Booth shot him in the temple."
What the ???? I'm sure the consituents in Illinois are proud. I only wish I could've been there in person to hear the crowd's reaction.

Obama makes an attempt to slam Bush, but misses the mark:
U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., said Lincoln's life illustrated "a fundamental element of the American character, a belief that we can constantly remake ourselves to fit our larger dreams."

But Obama also made much of Lincoln's self-doubt - which may have been a subtle way of taking issue with the certainty of tone Bush has taken during the Iraq war.

"Lincoln was not a perfect man nor a perfect president," Obama said. "By modern standards, his condemnation of slavery might be considered tentative, his Emancipation Proclamation more a military document than a clarion call for justice. He wasn't immune to political considerations. His temperament could be indecisive and morose."

Still, Obama said, "perhaps because of a painful self-awareness of his own failings," Lincoln kept his moral compass in ending slavery and holding the nation together through civil war.

"He did not equivocate or duck or pass the challenge on to future generations,"
Obama said.
Instead of an attack on Bush, this looks to me like a criticism of our previous president, who had moral failings (but certainly never admitted them), who kicked the can down the road, who was indecisive and always prone to political considerations.

But, to the larger point: Does Obama really want to characterize the Emancipation Proclamation as a politically motivated document that was too timid? Lincoln certainly held off on the proclamation, primarily in fear of alienating those on the other side (who were wrong). Its issuance certainly isn't an example of reaching out to the other side and moderating your tone. It's timing, just 2 years after Lincoln's inauguration, was perhaps delayed by political consideration - but its message and meaning certainly was radical for the times and against the conventional wisdom. Many of Bush's proposals today are characterized in much the same way today. I wonder what a Gallup poll of the Proclamation would've shown?

Obama makes the case that standing up for truth and liberty, despite the political considerations, is the only action that a President should take. Any politician that reads the polls every day and makes decisions solely based on the political calculus of the day will only preserve the status quo and become a minor player in US history (I'm talking about you, Bill).

***UPDATE***
Interesting "thoughts" on the topic from DownLeft here. Course, this blogger doesn't mention a word of Obama or Durbin's gaffes (in my opinion) and jumps on Bush for saying exactly what he's doing.

Not sure how an elected Iraqi government developing their own form of democratic government and constitution is imposing US-Style government on a country... unless you don't agree with the premise that all people have certain inalienable rights (yadda yadda) and that the best way to achieve that is through a democracy (or democratic republic). What if the Iraqis end up with a French-style democracy, Downer? would that still be an imposition of US-style institutions on the Iraqis? It's up to the Iraqis to decide now that they don't have a tyrant killing hundreds of thousands of them year after year. And many more people are recognizing that they too should determine their own form of government. Or is this just some Chimpy-Bush-McHitler black op?

Downer also gauges the crowds response here.

Don't worry, Downer... 25 - 50 years from now, you'll look back on this period and realize that you were in a cloud, as many "clinton haters" have awakened from their cloud of hatred (and now recognize him as simply irrelevant historically).

***UPDATE 2***
Downer compares this photo (which Downer finds offensive) with Durbin's remark (which Downer thinks was hilarious).


Huh??? Not sure how you can equate proper dress (apparently a borrowed military subzero coat) for a snowstorm with joking about a bullet to the head of one of our Presidents. The other folks in the picture seem to be bundled up as well. (Frankly, I'd be offended if I saw them without clothes...) And I don't seem to recall any Gaskammer jokes by Cheney, but hey... I'm not twisted with hatred. I wonder if Downer would laugh about a Kennedy "bullet in the head" joke?

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler