Balkinization  

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obama as Abraham Lincoln

Mark Graber

Mark Twain in Letters From the Earth tells the story of a religious person who was advised by a priest to "imitate our Father in Heaven. Learn to be like him." After studying the Bible, the man in question decided that his best strategy would be to spread disease and pestilence, just as God apparently does in several passages in the Hebrew Bible and New Testament. The priest, of course, indicated that this was not the right way to follow the path of the Lord, although he had some difficulty explaining which divine actions were a source of guidance and which were not.

This passage seems appropriate in light of very-soon-to be President Obama’s aspiration to follow in Lincoln’s footsteps. Presumably he does not mean that he will shortly embark on a military adventure under the misapprehension that the use of force will be short and relatively painless. We just had a president who imitated that facet of the Lincoln presidency. No doubt Carl Sandburg was overly romantic, but I’ve always admired his depiction of Lincoln the pardoner. On the other hand, a great many of my follow citizens clearly do not want the Obama Administration to follow that path. I suspect no one hopes habeas corpus is suspend, and few want a renewal of the draft (whether for military or compulsory public service). Citizens who have read Daniel Hamilton’s terrific book on confiscation during the Civil War are unlikely to approve of Lincoln’s conservatism on these matters (arguably his decisions contributed to some degree, probably small, to African-American impoverishment after the Civil War). We all applaud Lincoln’s commitment to freeing the slaves, but that does not translate into any consensus on the contemporary analogy to emancipation. In short, efforts to be like Lincoln in 2009 seem no more specific than advice to follow the path of the Biblical God. We could imagine a stunningly rotten Obama presidency where every decision was consistent with some action Lincoln took more the 150 years ago. To the extent people bother commenting on this post (written again, in approximately 10-15 minutes), I suspect the lack of a consensus on what following Lincoln means will be become apparent.

The presidency has many responsibilities. One of them is manipulating the symbols of the past to support present policy initiatives. We judge presidents on how well they perform that task. Article II does not also demand that the chief executive teach citizens to think critically about those symbols. That’s the job of those of who work in the academy. The Lincoln example is seductive, but the allure is in part because in contemporary constitutional culture, Lincoln can be cited for almost any policy one might champion. More generally, I suspect, successful presidencies are a bit sui generis. Imitating Lincoln or Washington may be a good recipe for invoking symbols that will be useful for a successful presidency. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, Obama will be judged by his distinctive qualities and practices and not to the extent he imitated Lincoln or anyone else. Which Lincoln he imitates will be far more interesting and important than mere invocation of the sixteenth president's most famous words.


Comments:

This comment has been removed by the author.
 

wonder, did Mark (no, not Twain) grab the Bush back in January of 2001 in similar fashion? I wonder how the quoted portion from Twain's "Letters from the Earth" might be applied to Bush's ventures into Afghanistan and Iraq? Twain, an anti-imperialist, was attacking religion in "Letters from the Earth" and its impact upon humanity, accomplished with much humor and insight. Sounds like Mark (no, not Twain) is working on a book on Lincoln questioning Lincoln's "alleged" greatness as a President and a man, requiring him to make a pre-emptive (a la Bush) strike on Obama.
 

Obama as Lincoln? One hopes that he won't respond to the Court ruling some initiative of his unconstitutional by ordering the Chief Justice jailed, but I suppose you never know...
 

Wrong again.
 

Well I've said all along that my greatest hope for President Obama is simply that he will prove to be a man who is open to reason -- a trait which I believe President Lincoln had in abundance.

We've witnessed what unreasoning fanatics lost in hysteria can accomplish for eight years now. It's time to restore the rule of reason and law.
 

I think we should judge political figures -- and for that matter, people generally -- as we judge artists: not by their worst works, but by their best. Mozart was great not because of his weakest compositions, but because of his best.

Thus, we don't remember Lincoln because of his mistakes, but because of his successes. If we're going to follow a principle of imitatio Lincolni, we do need to be selective.

I guess I have to add that my general principle doesn't apply to those few people -- Hitler, Stalin, etc. -- whose evil so overwhelms their good that the good is trivial.
 

@Mark Field,

I guess I disagree with your general principle; I'd argue we need a rule that applies across the board, even to history's monsters. We mustn't deny Stalin's or Hitler's innate humanity or how else shall we guard against the same tendencies in other mere mortals? We all are judged by the whole of our works (issues of faith notwithstanding).

Lincoln the man was as flawed as Lincoln the myth was perfect. No surprise. My hope for the new president is that he aspires to live up to the ideals embodied in the Lincoln myth despite being mired in reality.
 

I guess Brett is talking about CJ Taney, who was not acting as the head of "the Court," but alone, ruling on habeas. The SC did not rule against Lincoln on any important issue.

I don't know of any evidence Lincoln had any serious intention to jail the guy, especially since he led no legions to enforce the ruling, which might not even have been final.

In fact, as someone wrote in a new collection of essays about Lincoln, edited by Eric Foner, under Marbury, he might not even had the power to rule as he did.

Anyway, the flubbed oath of office might serve as a metaphor -- no one is perfect; the key is excelling in the midst of imperfection. We had half of that lately; we need all of it.
 

Brett,

Are you thinking of the brouhaha surrounding the Merryman case in particular?

If so, there are reasons to believe that Taney's decision in the case itself was a gross violation of the legal process--and perhaps so flagrant as not worthy of upholding by the other branches. It was a kangaroo court even by the standards of the Taney Court, and the decision was made by Taney--an inveterate racist and pro-Confederate jurist--alone. See for instance Rehnquist's examination of the case in All the Laws But One.

On a more general note, I think the cries of "unconstitutional" action against Lincoln is for most part histrionic and even uninformed exaggerations, as the recent book by Mark Neely, among others, demonstrates.

Finally, to the extent Lincoln's actions were "unconstitutional," I think the exigencies of the moment justified it in most cases--as his July 4th Address, as well as the authority of virtually every major political philosopher (including even the "idealist" Plato's Socrates--whom Thrasymachus deride for his snivelling naivete) attest.
 

Sounds like Mark (no, not Twain) is working on a book on Lincoln questioning Lincoln's "alleged" greatness as a President and a man, requiring him to make a pre-emptive (a la Bush) strike on Obama.

Interesting insight. I wouldn't say that the presumptive book would require him to strike at Obama: it may be the entire point.
 

"Interesting insight. I wouldn't say that the presumptive book would require him to strike at Obama: it may be the entire point."

Or a Mark (no, not Twain) Two-fer? If Obama were the entire point, perhaps Mark (no, not Twain) is switching careers to prognosticating history - pre-emptive historicism.
 

Mr. Graber just can't seem to do enough to criticize and demean our new president. The last time he compared Obama to Mao, and worried that his supporters would rip apart the White House, the unstated implication being that these would be his African-American supporters.

Now we get this ludicrous parsing of comments about Lincoln. Graber claims, seemingly absurdly, to be a liberal, but had I read this submission and the last one without knowing who wrote them, I would have strongly suspected Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity, or perhaps William Kristol.

Graber appears bent on doing all he can to demean Obama, and Obama's myriad supporters.

Next we'll probably hear from Mr. Graber about the valiant war of southern independence.

Ross Taylor
 

President Lincoln and President Obama share ancestors

for more on this see:
http://familyforest.wordpress.com/2009/01/18/president-lincoln-and-president-obama-share-ancestors/

It was a great day in American History!
 

One difference (for starters): Lincoln correctly took his oath of office.
 

Ah, Charles, right on schedule. I suppose you will next argue that Roberts's gaffe means Obama is not properly sworn in, so Biden should be running things? Or haven't they broken that story on World Net Daily yet?
 

Robert Link:

Ah, Charles, right on schedule. I suppose you will next argue that Roberts's gaffe means Obama is not properly sworn in, so Biden should be running things? Or haven't they broken that story on World Net Daily yet?

Only fly in the ointment there: Joseph Robinette [what kind of name is that, anyway?] Biden hasn't proved to the satisfaction of LittleFreepGoofballs and ClownHall that he's a "natural born U.S. citizen" (in triplicate, along with sworn testimony of eyewitnesses to his birth), so he's also a fraud, a phony, and prolly a Terra-ist to boot. My, what a Constitutional fustercluck we've gotten ourselves into.

For kicks, check this out.... ;-)

Cheers,
 

@Arne,

Oh them crazy kids...
 

Ross Taylor wrote, "The last time he compared Obama to Mao, and worried that his supporters would rip apart the White House, the unstated implication being that these would be his African-American supporters."

As a sucker for punishment, may I ask where I could find these comments from Mr. Graber?
 

Not at all, Robert and Arne. There's never been any question about Acting President Biden's "natural birth" citizenship. Add to that, of course, most Constitutional Law experts would say, just to be safe, Obama should retake the oath of office.
 

This comment has been removed by the author.
 

Allow me to revise and extend my remarks then:

There's never been any question about Acting President Biden's citizenship, until Arne just tried to make some lame point by questioning it at 1:50 PM on January 21, 2009. Everyone else (including every right-wing wacko) accepts that Biden was born in Scranton, USA, the son of a blue-collar car salesman.
 

P.S. to Chris:

http://balkin.blogspot.com/2009/01/obama-as-andrew-jackson.html
 

This comment has been removed by the author.
 

Nope. Not a typo either. You are mixing apples (legitimate questions about Obama's birthplace) with oranges (illegitimate questions about Biden's birthplace).
 

Chucklehead, you're pretty fucking thick.
 

That's what your mother said last night too.
 

This comment has been removed by the author.
 

There are reasons why some posts don't have comments enabled. It's not even profanity per se, I'd reckon, but truly personal attack that most clearly crosses the line.

I invite everyone to up the ante a bit. Think about it, not only are our hosts professors at the finest schools, but one of them has gone on to work for the new administration. Woudln't it be nice to drag the caliber of our comments up to that level?

I've failed that criterion as often as the next guy, so feel free to hold my feet to the fire when I slip. Meanwhile, lets all try to make this a place we're proud to have potential future employers and clients read.

Peace,

rl
 

This comment has been removed by the author.
 

Arne,

I'm happy to pimp your site, but that's totally separate from what I'm sure is a sufficient reminder, "word to the wise" style, here.

"For a good time browse http://leastdangerousbranch.blogspot.com/2009/01/justice-oprah.html"
 

More generally, I suspect, successful presidencies are a bit sui generis. Imitating Lincoln or Washington may be a good recipe for invoking symbols that will be useful for a successful presidency. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, Obama will be judged by his distinctive qualities and practices and not to the extent he imitated Lincoln or anyone else. Which Lincoln he imitates will be far more interesting and important than mere invocation of the sixteenth president's most famous words.

Bingo!

The great Presidents, like Lincoln, the two Roosevelts and Reagan, were their own men and did not feel the need to imitate predecessors to boost their own standing.

Then again, when you have accomplished nothing of note in your career, perhaps you need the assist.
 

Obama as Lincoln?

Jon Stewart makes the devastating case that Obama echoes Bush.
 

"devestating"

Obama made the differences quite obvious every time he utters a complete sentence.
 

Robert Link:

I'm really not interested in steering discussion there for my own nefarious purposes. Really. I was offering it up as a sacrificial site in the interest of inveigling "Chuckles" here into abandoning his spew here and putting it on a more appropriate (and more appropriately-toned) site.

Then again, we could push this site as an appropriate spot for further "discussion" with "Chuckles". I suspect it could use the hits. ;-)

Cheers,
 

This comment has been removed by the author.
 

"Bart" DeCutNPaste:

Jon Stewart makes the devastating case that Obama echoes Bush.

I notice on your web site, you claim the "liberal media" is drawing parallels between Dubya and Obama, citing Stewart's send-up.

Hate to point it out to you, but Stewart is a comic, and his job is to make fun of people. Left, right, whatever. Agreed, Dubya made it seem easy, but now he's on to the new targets. Stewart has in fact in the past pointed out (vociferously) that it's not his job to accurately convey the news, and that he'd prefer if the actual news media would farkin' do their job so that he is not left with the unwarranted burden of being the "best" news source in town.

That being said, its' easy to do the cut'n'paste of the speeches and look for the similar parts. But a fair analysis (and I[m sure you want to be fair, "Bart", and not just flog your wet dreams that Obama is going to be "Dubya II" despite the evidence otherwise) would look at what was the same and what was different

Here's E.J. Dionne's look at the speech, including this little tidbit for you, "Bart":

"One of the wondrous aspects of Obama's inaugural address is the extent to which those on the left and those on the right both claimed our new president as their own."

And this:

"President Obama intends to use conservative values for progressive ends. He will cast extreme individualism as an infantile approach to politics that must be supplanted by a more adult sense of personal and collective responsibility. He will honor government's role in our democracy and not degrade it. He wants America to lead the world, but as much by example as by force.

"And in trying to do all these things, he will confuse a lot of people."


People that see what they want to see and that aren't paying attention.

Here's another person's take on the speech:

President Obama's inauguration was historic in its own right; however, elements of his speech mimicked George W. Bush's hawkish tone.

"When Obama, for example, stated that, 'We will not apologize for our way of life nor will we waver in its defense,' and then went on to talk about protecting freedom around the world, one doesn't have to remember too far back to recall this same Bush rhetoric in regards to 'why they hate us.' According to Bush, the terrorists hate us for our freedom, not our ongoing presence in the Middle East or our unwavering support for Israel, but rather our fancy cars and materialism.

"It's this ignorance that keeps history repeating itself, and if Obama is bringing hope and change with him to the White House, then let this kind of rhetoric be kept solely to appease that part of the population still skeptical of his willingness to defend against terrorism."


IOW, to get folks like you to STFU and play nice. You won't, though.

Cheers,
 

President Lincoln and President Obama share ancestors:

http://familyforest.wordpress.com

Also Obama's presidential genes were reported early on in Feb 2007 by the Associated Press: http://www.familyforest.com/inthenews.html
 

HD kaliteli porno izle ve boşal.
Bayan porno izleme sitesi.
Bedava ve ücretsiz porno izle size gelsin.
Liseli kızların ve Türbanlı ateşli hatunların sikiş filmlerini izle.
Siyah karanlık odada porno yapan evli çift.
harika Duvar Kağıtları bunlar
tamamen ithal duvar kağıdı olanlar var
 

Post a Comment

Older Posts
Newer Posts
Home