By Alan Caruba
What is with all this positioning of Barack Obama as the next Abraham Lincoln?
Obama began his campaign in Springfield, Illinois, famed home of Lincoln. He returns there periodically for other announcements, but he still vacations in Hawaii.
We’re told Obama read a book about how Lincoln put together his cabinet, including “rivals” which one must presume means Hillary Clinton. The rest of his cabinet is mostly Clinton retreads and, predictably, some have already run into confirmation problems.
Now we learn he will take a train ride into Washington, DC to emulate the way Abe arrived.
No doubt his inauguration speech will be cribbed from any number of eloquent Lincoln speeches.
What we have here is “branding.” One establishes a brand in order to sell a product or selection of products with which the consumer associates good things.
What most people associate Lincoln with is the Civil War, a conflict he pursued to the tune of more American dead on both sites of the conflict than any other. Neither party to it, Union or Confederate, really believed it would ever erupt into such a bloody slaughter of soldier and civilian alike. Both dithered about in hope of achieving a compromise before the fighting began in earnest.
Lincoln wasn’t big on compromise and, as history records, he wasn’t big on the U.S. Constitution if it got in the way of winning the war. And Lincoln was a lawyer. Not just any country bumpkin lawyer, but a very successful corporate lawyer.
To his credit, Lincoln hated slavery, but he was willing to nibble at the edges if it meant keeping the Union intact. When it became clear that wouldn’t work, he freed the slaves, but only in the Confederate States where his Emancipation Proclamation had no force of law while he permitted slavery to continue in border States such as Maryland, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania.
Whole libraries could be filled with books about Lincoln at this point in time, but it would be indelicate to point out he was an extraordinarily devious politician. Few would fault his decision to preserve the Union, but it was done at considerable cost. Few, also, realize that the real issue at hand was States rights. The States lost.
I suspect President-elect Obama knows this. I suspect that, like everything else involving his nearly two-year campaign to become President, this Lincoln-Obama alignment is no accident and is, in fact, a deliberate effort to create a public image of the incoming President as being intellectually, spiritually, and morally on a par with the revered sixteenth President.
Obama is all about imagery. The problem with that is that, after a while, people begin to demand results that will improve their lives. He won’t have to wait long to hear that. By then the campaign promises will be long forgotten, along with “hope” and “change.” Real solutions to real problems are not created by imagery.
All men who aspire to put their mark on history understood the power of imagery, from the pharaohs of Egypt to the monarchs of Europe and, today, the sultans of the oil-rich Middle East who cannot build huge skyscrapers fast enough. Obama’s “Lincoln” pageant has a faintly unpleasant quality to it; a coat-tails effect that cannot sustain itself.
Obama is no Lincoln. He only wants to drape himself in Lincoln’s aura, to appear Lincolnesque.
It’s what lies below that scares me.