Overweening Generalist

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Short Mull on Obama's Misreading of Lincoln

Ever since the BarackStar got in, I have watched him closely on his ideas about listening to people who disagree with him. What a depressing, maddening road it's been for me. Obama kept citing Lincoln, said he was reading Lincoln, admired Abe, compared his situation with Abe's. The two competing Presidential influences were FDR (obviously), and Reagan (ironically, surprisingly, rhetorically).

What has bothered me increasingly about Obama is his failure to read Lincoln accurately, in my view.

                                                          Lincoln had one year of formal school, making him one 
                                                          of the great autodidacts in history.

Yes, Lincoln said he didn't know everything and surrounded himself with people who disagreed with him. He really did want to hear other ideas. He welcomed them. He compromised (<-----this is the key word here, folks) when he felt it was the right thing to do, but he did not compromise on his core principles.

Meanwhile, history has saddled Obama with an opposition party whose sole stated purposed is to make him a one-term President  - no compromises! - at the expense of the suffering of the people of Unistat, and on behalf of the 1% who own the country. The historical situation now is not the same as 1861-1865. I'm still trying to figure out how Obama has mentally negotiated this. But that's not the main issue here...

Lincoln was long against slavery, but never agitated like an abolitionist. He was pragmatic. He admired many people who had slaves but who also seemed to think it was wrong. Such as Thomas Jefferson.

When the "Civil" War (as Professor George Carlin might have said, "If it's so civil...then what's all the fighting about?") broke, it forced the issue. Lincoln was forced to tackle the Problem. During the war, the Emancipation Proclamation. Before that, Lincoln's Generals coming to him and saying, "We have fugitive slaves here, and we don't want to return them to their owners." Lincoln nodded in agreement.

Near the end of the war, some big-time monied interests and similar people that Lincoln had listened to, wanted him to rescind the Emancipation, and Lincoln, on personal principle, said no way in hell (my words, not his; he was a touch more eloquent than I). You can't give people freedom then take it back! You can't have warriors fighting on your side who are black, then return them to slavery! (We don't torture or hold people without charges or a trial...oh, I guess we do. For some reason. BarackStar? Hello?)

Obama hasn't had anything as dramatic as slavery to fight against, but he has never seemed to take a principled stance on any major issue. He SAID time again that certain things are a done deal, non-negotiable, then caved. He doesn't seem to understand: there are the 1% who bought his election (largely), but his young, idealistic constituency was where his (supposed) principles would have had their backing. Our BarackStar has flubbed some golden opportunities to alter history and be truly great.

In this, Obama has made a massive error. And when his own constituency has criticized him, he's - again depressingly, for this constituent - shown he has thin skin. He's mad we're mad. Sure, he's the smartest in the room. But as smart as he is, he has not shown he has given an adequate reading of Lincoln.

As for the Overweening Generalist, I give Obama's reading and use of Lincoln a C minus. But he can improve on this grade "next semester," if he's accepted. He still has work in finishing this semester.

I hope he gets another 1000 days to prove he can learn. Intelligence on the stage of world history has at times been coupled with hubris and a thin skin. This seems to me a lack of a different type of intelligence in Obama's case, if not in other historical instantiations: Obama may lack some emotional intelligence. This view would seem to mitigate my opinion that Obama has misread Lincoln, for perhaps he just doesn't have it in him? I fervently hope he proves me wrong...

Along with this musing, I think certain people get caught up in the Curse of the Oval Room which re-routs their priorities, for reasons I won't mull about here. If there are reasons. Heck, how reasonable is a curse?

Further video links: (2):

NYT from August 2011 3 and a half minutes: Obama vis a vis Lincoln and Reagan and the trickiness of compromise

Here's some sheer gold if you have the time. Historian Eric Foner: 54 mins. I finally saw a mind far more brilliant than mine articulate what I've been thinking for three years.

                                           Rarely has so much political capital been so mismanaged. So far....


Anonymous said...

Welcome to the "Lincoln" club!Apparently there are about 17,000 books written on Lincoln. (Do we need another one?) Here comes Bill O'Reilly with 17,001 book "Killing Lincoln" and O'Reilly kills it! Due to numerous mistakes in the book Lincoln Museum and Ford's Theater bookstore refuse to sell the book. O'Reilly misses some historic data for 43 years. Oooops!


michael said...

I saw Olbermann talking about "Bill-O" and his Lincoln book and how embarrassingly awful it is. The Ford Theater gift shop won't even carry it?

Apparently Bill-O has Lincoln discussing Civil War strategy in the Oval Office, which wasn't built until 1909.

Well...I'm not surprised that O'Reilly thinks he can just make shot up and most of his idiot fan base will just eat it up. BUT: what about the publishers? Isn't this jackass O'Reilly a big-seller? So he's on a major publisher, right? Can't they hire editors and fact-checkers? This story struck me as weird. Is Bill-O's book being marketed as non-fiction?

I guess I'll have to look into it myself.

michael said...

@myself: I was wrong: the gift shop does carry it, along with all kinds of junky little trinkets. The part of the museum that houses books on Lincoln decided Bill-O's book was too lousy to include...and apparently Bill-O blames Al Franken, for some reason. I gave up trying to make sense of Bill-O's made-up bullshit long ago. I think he appeals to cowards who like to sybmbolically stand behind a hulking Irish bully, because Bill-O is an hypostatization for a deep-seated structure in the minds of far too many Murrrkins.

How did the moon get there? I don't know! You tell me! It's a miracle and THAT'S THAT, you liberal whiny twerps who..who...actually KNOW THINGS! I'll punch you right in the face if you act all smart and show off your loony-left-wing critical thinking skills with me! Cut his mic! CUT HIS MIC!

Bill-O, symbolic leader for a certain type of Murrrkin citizen.

michael said...

I think it is incumbent upon me to let Bill-O have the last word, in response to what I said above: