Balkinization  

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Not a Lincoln But a Fraud

Scott Horton

A few days ago, on Lincoln's birthday, I posed a quick commentary on how the legacy of America's greatest Republican president – perhaps our greatest president overall – was under attack. Lincoln's views, I argued, were being perverted by the exponents of aggrandized presidential power. He and his acts were being portrayed as the legitimating predecessors of Bush's imperial presidency. This effort, I said, was historically disingenuous, or at least blind to the Lincoln of the forties and fifties, who was passionate in his advocacy of a constrained executive and the role of Congress as a vital counterweight to the president's war-making powers.

In the following seventy-two hours, we were treated to an excellent demonstration of the sort of fraud that I described. Republican strategist Frank Gaffney authored an op-ed in the Washington Times, which in its original form led with the words

Congressmen who willfully take actions during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs and should be arrested, exiled, or hanged.

Gaffney attributed these words to Abraham Lincoln. Two days after it was confirmed that this quotation was a fraud, the Washington Times edited the web posting to remove them. Gaffney went on to spew venom against Democrats and "white-flag Republicans" who were supporting resolutions expressing a lack of confidence in President Bush's Plus-Up plan, under which American troop strength in Iraq has been bolstered in connection with a fresh plan to restore Iraqi control over Baghdad. Gaffney's vituperations include the words "treason" and "hanging offense." He uses this language to refer to lawmakers who are doing no more than engage in open debate on a non-binding resolution in an exercise of their Constitutional advice function.

Anyone familiar with Lincoln's life and works knows that there is no chance that Lincoln ever would have uttered such words. Why? For a very simple reason: as a member of Congress, and before his election to Congress, Lincoln himself was an exceedingly harsh critic of the president's decision to wage a war against Mexico. After the war began, his criticism actually got a good bit sharper. And Abe Lincoln was certainly too clever to condemn congressmen for things he himself did while in Congress.

The introduction of this fraudulent quotation, in another publication controlled by Rev Moon and close to the Republican Party, Insight Magazine, and its subsequent proliferation in rightwing publications, has been traced with admirable skill by Glenn Greenwald at Salon.com.

This over-the-top language was characteristic of much of the GOP-led floor discussion and, indeed, within a day the bogus Lincoln was making an appearance on the floor of Congress in remarks offered by GOP Rep Don Young of Alaska. Watch them here.

This year Republican stalwarts have marked Abraham Lincoln's birthday by perverting his legacy. They propagate the image of a power-mad, intolerant, war-mongering president. This is a base slander of the intellectual founder of the Republican Party. As Andrew Sullivan writes in The Atlantic blogozine, "It says everything you need to know about the state of the Republican Party: that they would knowingly lie about the words of the greatest Republican president in American history." But the more distressing point is this: it shows how far the Republicans have fallen from Lincoln's vision. Our country as a whole, and the Republican Party, which should be the guardian of his legacy, would benefit from more attention and more fidelity to this titan of the American political culture.

Comments:

The debate becomes part Lewis Carroll, part George Orwell.

The man who stood before audiences of wide eyed boys and girls, imploring them to risk their lives in their country's imminent danger...now argues that those who disagree with him...do not support our troops.

Shame on them all.
 

The Framers included the Speech or Debate Clause in Article I for this very situation--to allow members of the legislature to criticize the Executive (and/or his policies) with complete impunity when speaking in their house.

So much for strict construction . . .
 

That quote was used here in Maine in October of 2006 by Republican candidate for congress, L. Scott D’Amboise. At that point in time there were already some 18,000 references to the quote on google. It had been thoroughly debunked and its genesis well traced.

I reamed out the Bangor Daily News over the phone but they never printed a correction. The propagation is clearly deliberate.
 

Honest Abe might indeed become even more relevant to the anti-war effort if, as many fear, the front lines of the "war on terror" move from IraQ to IraN.

Dissenting from the Second Circuit's judgment to dismiss a lawsuit seeking to enjoin the United States from 'escalating the war in order to end it' by bombing Cambodia, Judge James L. Oakes wrote,

I am aware of only one instance in which it has previously been argued that a war was illegal as a result of Congress being misinformed as to the underlying facts surrounding American participation in that war. While the argument was unique and unsuccessful to boot, however, time has vindicated it, I believe. Furthermore, it was advanced by one whose views are worth consideration, even if they were expressed in "dissent," so to speak. I refer of course to Abraham Lincoln and his argument as a lone Congressman on January 12, 1848, in opposition to our "incursion" into Mexico and what later was called the Mexican War. See Cong. Globe, 30th Cong. 1st Sess. 93 et seq. (Appendix 1848).

Holtzman v. Schlesinger, 484 F.2d 1307, 1316 (2d Cir. 1973) (Oakes, J.).

As Congress has once again gotten around to resolutions and the President is roughly so popular as was Nixon, it might well be that Lincoln, antiwar Congressperson - he might again be relevant and even possibly reliably quoted.
 

I’m still trying to parse this bunch of nonsense from Gaffney (aprox quote below) in his debate with Glenn Greenwald. It's not clear WHO exactly he’s talking about in the current conflict and context -

“Behavior, not debate, but behavior that I believe is contributing to two things:
One, the impedance of people who have the responsibilities of guiding our national security from challenging assessments and analyses that are now widely regarded to have been wrong on a number of different counts – I think that is a very pernicious step and one that would have grave consequences over time.

To the extent that we’re gonna cite Lincoln, it happen that shortly before Gettysburg A Lincoln wrote in a letter, he was talking at some length about the irony of having to punish a soldier who deserts and leaving untouched people who are agitators who are encouraging him to abandon his post. And I think he says that this is a case to silence the agitators and save the boy is not only constitutional but all a great mercy.

Now the truth of the matter is in a time of war we have, and as this great pres put it we have and this is a direct quote we have – this great pres recognized that those who would weaken the country who would undermine the military should be silenced.”


Since the folks most undermining and endangering our troops are the bAdmin by STILL Not providing them Body armor and putting them in the middle of a self-perpetuating civil war. "Bring Home the Troops" is not a prescription nor equivalent to encouraging of *desertion* of the Troops duty to serve. Secondly, as to who is most responsible for the “impedance of people who have the responsibilities of guiding our national security from challenging assessments and analyses” but those that cherry-pick info and avoid the unfounded/debunked parts. That’ is exactly the criticism of Feith’s intelligence reporting - that he ignored *challenges* that existed in his intell assessment. It was deemed inappropriate in the manner of properly providing such a critical report to the highest levels for their consideration. But Gaffney defends Feith.
 

Since the blogosphere rapidly exposed Dan Rather's fraudulent National Guard documents published in his pre election anti-Bush hit piece, only a moron would attempt to fabricate a quote by such a well referenced man as Lincoln. Such a fraud is simply too easy to expose.

Putting his fraudulent quote and over-the-top rhetoric aside for the moment, Mr. Gaffney does make a valid point as to Ms. Pelosi's reprehensible resolution. Even if it was not the intent of this resolution's supporters to provide aid and comfort to the enemy and to undermine the morale of our troops in the field, the application of a modicum of perspective reveals that that is the effect of this regrettable vote.

Moreover, I continue to be puzzled by Mr. Horton's continued attempted use of Mr. Lincoln as some sort of anti-war patron saint. As I pointed out here and at my own blog, Mr. Lincoln's prosecution of war against unlawful enemy combatants during the Civil War makes Mr. Bush's actions pale in comparison.

While he did in fact oppose the Mexican American War, Mr. Lincoln certainly did not offer or vote for a resolution denouncing sending reinforcements to the troops in Mexico. Moreover, the Elephant Congress at the time would never have considered offering or voting for offer or vote for a resolution denouncing sending reinforcements to the troops fighting the Civil War. Therefore, Lincoln never had the need to condemn such a reprehensible piece of legislation nor those who voted for it.

However, Lincoln did put into actual effect the sentiments advanced in the false quote attributed to him by Mr. Gaffney. During the Civil War, Donkey Representative Clement Vallandigham of Ohio was a leader of the Copperhead faction of Congress who condemned "King Lincoln" for going to war to "free blacks and enslave whites." The Army later arrested and tried Vallandigham for encouraging the desertion of Union troops. After that trial, Lincoln ordered that Vallandigham be exiled into the Confederacy.

In justifying his decision, Lincoln wrote:

Mr. Vallandigham avows his hostility to the war on the part of the Union; and his arrest was made because he was laboring, with some effect, to prevent the raising of troops, to encourage desertions from the army, and to leave the rebellion without an adequate military force to suppress it. He was not arrested because he was damaging the political prospects of the administration, or the personal interests of the commanding general; but because he was damaging the army, upon the existence, and vigor of which, the life of the nation depends. He was warring upon the military; and this gave the military constitutional jurisdiction to lay hands upon him ....

Lincoln may be many things, but he is hardly a poster child for the modern anti-war movement.
 

De Palma... only a moron would attempt to fabricate a quote by such a well referenced man as Lincoln. Such a fraud is simply too easy to expose.

The operative word here is "fraud".
 

However, Lincoln did put into actual effect the sentiments advanced in the false quote attributed to him by Mr. Gaffney.
As regards banishing, yes, in a single instance, but not once as regards hanging.

What makes this Lincoln "quote" especially pathetic is that the OED gives the first English usage of sabotage as occurring in 1910 and of saboteur in 1921.
 

Lincoln was a great man, but it is best to acknowledge that he was not perfect. Some of the things he did in prosecuting the Civil War cannot be excused. Others can be excused, considering the scope of the crisis he was facing, unprecedented in our nation's history. But that does not make them models to be emulated every time a lesser crisis appears.
 

Bart cannot seem to make the obvious distinction between a domestic civil war and a foreign one. In a domestic civil war, treason is in play by definition, so it is hardly surprising that there were instances of people being arrested and tried for treason during the US Civil War.

In a foreign civil war -- the one currently raging in Iraq, for example -- that the US caused but is now only a third or fourth party to, calls for the arrest and hanging of the elected representatives of the American people amid cries of "treason," complete with fabricated quotes and hysterics, are really just pathetic attempts to silence the American people, the political opposition, and democracy itself.

Maybe Bart can see the distinction now.
 

"Bart" DePalma says:

As I pointed out here and at my own blog, Mr. Lincoln's prosecution of war against unlawful enemy combatants during the Civil War makes Mr. Bush's actions pale in comparison.

As I've pointed out here (et seq)and elsewhere, "Bart"'s 'arguments' along these lines are full of holes and not too far akin to fraud themselves.

But just a point of fact: Dubya isn't dealing with a domestic civil war, one that teetered on the brink of disaster a number of times, and which threatened immediate destruction of the nation.

Pretending that Dubya's misbegotten, wasteful, and totally unnecessary war on Iraq is some kind of excuse for the legal travesties that Dubya's been committing is absurd to pretty much every thinking person.

That being said, as a lawyer, "Bart" should know that the "tu quoque defence is a pile of dog excrement legally.

Cheers,
 

More "Bart" DePalma crapola:

However, Lincoln did put into actual effect the sentiments advanced in the false quote attributed to him by Mr. Gaffney. During the Civil War, Donkey Representative Clement Vallandigham of Ohio was a leader of the Copperhead faction of Congress who condemned "King Lincoln" for going to war to "free blacks and enslave whites." The Army later arrested and tried Vallandigham for encouraging the desertion of Union troops. After that trial, Lincoln ordered that Vallandigham be exiled into the Confederacy.

In justifying his decision, Lincoln wrote:

Mr. Vallandigham avows his hostility to the war on the part of the Union; and his arrest was made because he was laboring, with some effect, to prevent the raising of troops, to encourage desertions from the army, and to leave the rebellion without an adequate military force to suppress it. He was not arrested because he was damaging the political prospects of the administration, or the personal interests of the commanding general; but because he was damaging the army, upon the existence, and vigor of which, the life of the nation depends. He was warring upon the military; and this gave the military constitutional jurisdiction to lay hands upon him ....


Majikthise disposes of this ridiculous assertion of "Bart"'s here.

"Bart" is just spewing out the same kind of shoddy historical revisionism that Frank Gaffney has been spreading.

Lincoln may be many things, but he is hardly a poster child for the modern anti-war movement.

Talk about a HUGE "straw man". No one has said that Abraham Lincoln was some kind of "poster child for the modern anti-war movement". This is absurd; Lincoln was neither stridently anti-war nor pro-war. Horton's column simply makes the point RW liars like Gaffney have been trotting out Lincoln as some talisman to defend the abuses of the RW neocons and to deflect (or even punish) criticism of their horrid policy decision. But "Bart" doesn't try to discuss topics other bring up. He just wants to spew his own "talking points". And if that means saying that Gaffney -- even if using fradulent quotes -- was essentially correct even though his facts are made up, far be it from "Bart" to drop the cudgel.

BTW, another point of fact: Vallandigham wasn't a Congressman at the time of his arrest, contrary to "Bart"'s insinuations above.

Cheers,
 

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