SALT LAKE CITY, January 26, 2013 — Barack Obama sure likes to quote Lincoln a lot.
In fact, the president often invokes his Republican forbears – Lincoln, Roosevelt, Reagan – giants of the GOP. The one thing they all have in common is that they are dead.
Our 44th president, it seems, can’t find a living Republican from whom he can find any wisdom.
But he certainly didn’t use Lincoln as an exemplar for his second inaugural. The 16th president’s speech was marked by conciliation and healing, and above all, humility.
Speaking of the terribly vicious political divisions that drove the country to armed conflict, Lincoln said:
“Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged.”
Humility is one lesson Obama hasn’t learned from Lincoln or any other Republican. He has made his political living off judging others. During his reelection effort, for example, he pronounced his verdict on the Republicans’ budget:
“You’ve got their plan, which is, let’s have dirtier air, dirtier water, less people with health insurance.”
Those were the same Republicans he thought ought to take their place in the back of the bus instead of suggesting ways to improve the economy.
Obama, forgetting at times that we were not in a state of actual civil war despite our political disagreements, urged his constituent groups to “punish” his “enemies.”
There is no conciliation in Obama’s tone these days, as he refuses to negotiate with the House majority over routine matters of debt. Having failed to completely vanquish the Republican Party at the ballot box, he looks to use age-old war tactics to neutralize them in the halls of power. There are an annoying number (232) of Republican lawmakers in the House standing in his way of doing basically whatever he wants. In spite of the many checks and balances that our founders (admittedly, none GOP) built into the system, this is seen as a major problem for our chief executive.
When Lincoln won the presidency in 1860, the Republican Party was in its infancy. It boasted just over a third of Senate seats and plurality in the House. Lincoln was a weak president-elect, having benefitted from a fractured Democratic Party that ran two major candidates.
By the time the first Republican president took the oath of office, most Democrats in the Congress had bolted as their states seceded from the Union.
The president, who assumed broad war powers after the firing on Fort Sumter and had greater Republican majorities in both houses, had much more latitude than he otherwise would have.
Perhaps that is why Barack Obama admires – or envies – him so.
“We are made for this moment,” President Obama said in his own second inaugural, “and we will seize it, so long as we seize it together.”
Or so long as we don’t have to deal with Republicans.
Rich is a teacher and a soldier. In addition to writing the “Rich Like Me” political column at the Washington Times Communities, he is the author of Nine Weeks: A Teacher’s Education in Army Basic Training; Tunnel Club; and Not Another Boring Textbook: A High School Students’ Guide to their Inner Conservative.
He writes about Salt Lake City and the World in the Food and Travel section.
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