Friday, August 19, 2011

Obama Channeling Lincoln Again

Mr. President, You’re No Lincoln by Allen C. Guelzo

President Obama will wind up his black bus tour today in Peoria, Ill. And while he’s in the Land of Lincoln, we have to hope he won’t be tempted to repeat the comparison he made yesterday in Decorah, Iowa, of himself to Lincoln. Or of his sufferings to Lincoln’s.

It began with a friendly question from the audience, asking Mr. Obama how he hoped to manage a Congress which has proven so hostile to his agenda. He replied with what was intended to be a self-deprecating comment about presidents in the past who have had it worse. “But when you listen to what the Federalists said about the anti-Federalists and the names that Jefferson called Hamilton and back and forth — I mean, those guys were tough.”

But then, somewhere in the line of his thinking, President Obama performed a rhetorical U-turn: “Lincoln, they used to talk about him almost as bad as they talk about me.” One moment, Obama was modestly declining to claim that he had it worse than Hamilton or Jefferson — Hamilton and Jefferson, now those guys were really mean — and in a blink, he was presenting himself as an object of pity, exceeding in his sorrow even the American Man of Sorrows.

It is never a good sign when a president positions himself as a Lincolnian martyr. The presidency of Lincoln’s successor, Andrew Johnson, began circling the drain on the day he, too, tried to one-up Lincoln in the Sufferings Department. “Who has suffered more than I have?” Johnson asked in 1866. The response he got, from a nation which was still mourning 450,000 deaths in the Civil War, was an incredulous national guffaw.[...]
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