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Hearing Obama on Lincoln’s Birthday

Presidents’ Day is this coming Monday, but Lincoln’s birthday was this past Tuesday, February 12th.  I was traveling that day, and had the misfortune of being subjected to hearing most of the State of the Union address as I completed the last leg of that day’s journey.

As Dan and others have pointed out many times in the past, Obama is fond of comparing himself to Republican Presidents, especially Lincoln and Reagan.  Perhaps it is because both Lincoln and Reagan were associated with the state of Illinois: Reagan was born there, grew up there, and went to college there, and although Lincoln didn’t move to Illinois until his 21st year, he is most associated with the state where he became a country lawyer, served in the state legislature, and represented a district in the House of Representatives.

Or perhaps Obama compares himself to Republicans because he doesn’t want to remind the public that his political views place him to the left of Clinton, Carter, and Johnson, or, for that matter, far, far to the left of Kennedy.  Perhaps he simply wants to preserve the narrative about his alleged “post-partisanship” and thinks that comparing himself to Republican Presidents is one way to keep pulling the wool over the public’s eyes in that regard.

Whatever the reason, hearing him speak on Lincoln’s birthday only reminded me, once again, how far Obama falls from Lincoln’s historic presidency (despite Steven Spielberg’s and Tony Kushner’s attempts to draw such a parallel through their recent film).   Not only was the speech the usual melange of the same tiresome platitudes we’ve been hearing from him over the last five years, as both Bruce and Jeff have pointed out here, it was also full of his usual partisan talking points, as he placed blame on Republicans wherever he could, and he rationalized future power-grabs by the Executive branch.

In the context of Lincoln’s birthday, though, I am less interested in the SOTU, and more interested in what Obama said on January 21st of this year.  Until Bruce posted the entirety of Washington’s second inaugural last month, the second inaugural address I was most familiar with was Lincoln’s.  I had read about FDR’s second inaugural address, but never felt moved to read it in its entirety, and have generally had just passing interest in the speeches delivered on the second inaugurals of the presidents who were re-elected in my lifetime.  But Lincoln’s second inaugural address is anthologized in textbooks alongside the Gettysburg Address, and I have read both many times.  They are both lessons in brevity, resolve and humility.

Consider, for instance, the way that Lincoln discusses the issue of slavery and the conflict between the North and the South in his second inaugural address:

Both [sides] 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. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

These are not the words of a proud and arrogant man.  These are the words of a man who is troubled by the horrible conflict which has engulfed his nation and who prays for its speedy resolution, even as he fears the terrible price that both sides in the conflict still have to pay.  Lincoln’s words are even more powerful in that way that they echo, perhaps unintentionally, one of Jefferson’s most striking passages from his Notes on the State of Virginia:

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The Great Humanitarian – George W. Bush

Sadly, the former President and his allies were not willing to promote their policies or stand up to their false accusers on many an occasion, so his great work in Africa has gotten lost in the muck of our MSNBC-era world.

From Foreign Policy:

I’d suggest that there’s one president whose contribution dwarfs all the others. Unlike Hoover, he launched his program while he was in office, and unlike FDR, he received virtually no votes in return, since most of the people who have benefited aren’t U.S. citizens. In fact, there are very few Americans around who even associate him with his achievement. Who’s this great humanitarian? The name might surprise you: it’s George W. Bush.

I should say, right up front, that I do not belong to the former president’s political camp. I strongly disapproved of many of his policies. At the same time, I think it’s a tragedy that the foreign policy shortcomings of the Bush administration have conspired to obscure his most positive legacy — not least because it saved so many lives, but because there’s so much that Americans and the rest of the world can learn from it. Both his detractors and supporters tend to view his time in office through the lens of the “war on terror” and the policies that grew out of it. By contrast, only a few Americans have ever heard of PEPFAR, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which President Bush announced in his State of the Union address in 2003.

In 2012 alone, PEPFAR directly supported nearly 5.1 million people on antiretroviral treatment — a three-fold increase in only four years; provided antiretroviral drugs to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV to nearly 750,000 pregnant women living with the disease (which allowed approximately 230,000 infants to be born without HIV); and enabled more than 46.5 million people to receive testing and counseling.

“Bush did more to stop AIDS and more to help Africa than any president before or since,” says New York Times correspondent Peter Baker, who’s writing a history of the Bush-Cheney White House that’s due to appear in October. “He took on one of the world’s biggest problems in a big, bold way and it changed the course of a continent. If it weren’t for Iraq, it would be one of the main things history would remember about Bush, and it still should be part of any accounting of his presidency.”

Yet one of the loudest and shrillest groups that carried the “BusHitler” signs?  The Gay Political Left in America.  They should be ashamed.  But they have no morals or principles, so they aren’t capable of admitting they tarnished a great leader in George Bush.

PS – Barack Obama still has a lot of evolving to do on gay marriage to come close to the support of the issue demonstrated by former Vice President Dick Cheney — another of the Gay Left’s boogeymen.

-Bruce (@GayPatriot)