Tag Archives: Abraham Lincoln

Beto seeking to channel Honest Abe?

I already have declared my belief that Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke shouldn’t run for president of the United States in 2020. My belief is that he doesn’t yet have the seasoning or the experience to take on such a monstrous responsibility.

But then . . .

A thought occurs to me.

Another American politician lost a bitter campaign to the U.S. Senate and two years later he, too, was elected president.

Abraham Lincoln, anyone?

Lincoln ran for the Senate from Illinois, but lost to Stephen A. Douglas in 1858. The failed Senate candidate already had served in the U.S. House, but decided to push for higher office.

Having lost that bid, Lincoln licked his wounds — and then decided to go for an even bigger prize in 1860. That year he was elected president, but after he was nominated by the Republican National Convention on the third ballot. It was a struggle to win the party nomination. Lincoln’s presidency would prove to be the ultimate trial by fire, with the nation ripped apart by the Civil War.

OK, let’s hit the fast-forward button for a moment.

Does this sound like a scenario that Beto O’Rourke might follow were he to declare his own presidential candidacy? Democratic party activists and big-money donors say they want him to consider it. They like the young man’s energy and the passion he infuses into his supporters. He damn near beat Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in heavily Republican Texas earlier this month and that has Democrats all agog over his future.

The Washington Post reports that O’Rourke’s near-success in Texas has turned the Democratic primary outlook into a chaotic mess.

O’Rourke, who’s finishing his term as a congressman from El Paso, will enter private life and just might consider whether to make the plunge yet again, only reaching for the very top rung on the ladder.

Or . . . he might decide to take on Texas’s senior U.S. senator, John Cornyn, in 2020.

I remain a bit dubious about O’Rourke’s presidential timbre.

However, I am somewhat heartened to realize that there’s precedent for what the young man might decide to do. If he hears the voice calling him to run for the Big Job, he might do well to look back on Honest Abe’s effort two-plus centuries ago. It might give him the strength to plunge ahead.

What has become of the GOP?

What would Honest Abe, Teddy Roosevelt and Ike think of what’s become of the Republican Party? If only we could ask ’em.

Above is a tweet I posted two years ago wondering about the state of today’s GOP and how it was abducted by a form of “populism” that has no real resemblance to the movement that I had grown to understand.

Donald J. Trump got elected president on a pledge to do certain things, all of which he said at the time would be “easy.”

Build a wall along our southern border? Piece of cake.

Make Mexico pay for it? No sweat.

Negotiate the “best trade deals” in U.S. history? Done deal.

Craft a new health care program? Got it.

Cut taxes for everyone? Perfecto.

And so it went. How has he done? Not too well, by my way of looking at it.

As for the “populist” angle he pursued while running for office, the president hasn’t fulfilled that promise either. He continues to hobnob at his extravagant resorts. I haven’t seen him visiting housing projects, or tour squalid neighborhoods in Appalachia.

Indeed, Housing Secretary Ben Carson recently announced a desire to triple the rent paid by low-income residents of government housing. Dr. Carson then said his idea would “incentivize” residents to improve their lot in life and get them out of housing projects.

Man, that’s just so damn populist of him. Don’t you think?

Back to my Twitter message of two years ago. What, precisely, does the Republican Party stand for these days? Does it go along merely with what the president desires, even though this president had no history of political activism — let alone political experience of any kind — before he ran for the highest office in the land?

The party of Abe, TR and Ike is now the party of Trump.

President Lincoln stood for unifying the nation; President Theodore Roosevelt was an environmental champion; President Eisenhower sought to return the nation to a peace footing after so many years of open warfare in Europe, the Pacific and in Korea.

What does Trump believe? He touts his hatred of the media, he stiffs the opposing party at every turn, he is ravaged by an endless series of controversies — and a scandal or three — and he promises to “make America great again” by bullying our allies.

I’ll give him props for one potentially huge achievement, if he can pull it off: getting North Korea to back off its nuclear program.

However, a success there doesn’t erase the rest of the nastiness that has pervaded this man’s presidency.

Abe, TR and Ike are spinning in their graves.

What happened to Lincoln’s political party?

Two hundred nine years ago, Thomas and Nancy Lincoln welcomed a little boy into their lives. Little Abraham came into the world and went on to become the 16th president of the United States of America.

I thought I would take a brief look on Little Abe’s birthday to ponder the question that has befuddled many of us today: What has become of the Party of Lincoln?

President Lincoln was elected in 1860 and re-elected in 1864. The Civil War darkened his presidency. He vowed to preserve the Union, which split apart when the Confederate States of America went to war with the United States of America.

The Party of Lincoln became known as the party that sought equality for all Americans. It strove for unity. It became the party that fought against the enslavement of black Americans. President Lincoln embodied that righteous cause.

A century after the end of the Civil War, another president — Lyndon Baines Johnson of Texas — fought to enact the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act. He needed congressional Republicans to counteract the resistance he was getting from his fellow Southern Democrats who opposed both landmark pieces of legislation.

In the 50 years since LBJ’s time, the parties’ roles have reversed. Johnson predicted that the civil rights legislation would cost Democrats the South — and it has. Republicans now are the dominant party south of the Mason-Dixon Line and the GOP — not the Democrats — is now perceived by many to be the party of those opposed to the cause of civil rights.

One of the more stunning examples of that role reversal arguably occurred this past year when the current president, Republican Donald J. Trump, proclaimed that there was blame to go around on “many sides” in the riot that erupted in Charlottesville, Va. White supremacists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klansmen rioted to protest the taking down of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

The president’s response was breathtaking when he said there were “many fine people — on both sides” of the dispute. Yes, the president called Klansmen, Nazis and white supremacists “fine people.”

The Republican Party once branded itself as the Party of Lincoln, largely on its history of seeking equality for all Americans and for its intolerance of racial hatred.

Wherever he is, President Lincoln is an  unhappy man.

If only we could bring Honest Abe back from the great beyond to scold his political descendants on the degradation they have heaped on the party that once bore his name.

Two were nation’s founders; two sought to destroy the nation

Four men have been thrust posthumously into the front of the national debate over the removal of statues.

The president of the United States launched an impromptu press conference this week at Trump Tower. Donald Trump began answering questions about the Charlottesville, Va., riot that left three people dead. White supremacists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klansmen were protesting the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. Counter protesters clashed with the racist protesters.

It got real ugly real fast.

Then the president weighed in. He said “many sides” were at fault. Then he blamed the hate groups. Then on Tuesday he doubled down on his initial response, saying “both sides” were to blame for the mayhem.

Then his press conference veered into some truly bizarre territory.

I mentioned Gen. Lee already. Trump decided to mention that Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson’s statue also is targeted for removal. Then he asked: Should we take down statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson? They were slave owners, too, just like Lee and Jackson, he said.

Time out, Mr. President.

If Donald Trump had a clue about history he would realize this:

Yes, Washington and Jefferson enslaved human beings. They were imperfect men. However, they led a revolution that resulted in the creation of the United States of America. Washington commanded our armed forces fighting against the British Empire; Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence and was a key author of the U.S. Constitution. Those contributions to the founding of the nation does not pardon them for their slave ownership, but it is a mitigating factor that grants them greatness.

As for Gen. Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, they fought to destroy the Union that Washington and Jefferson helped create. Gen. Lee struggled whether to fight for the Union or to fight for the Confederate States of America. He chose to side with Virginia, which seceded from the Union. Jackson joined him in that terrible, bloody Civil War. Those men were traitors. Moreover, they were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans who died in the bloodiest war this nation has ever fought.

To his everlasting credit, President Lincoln declared during his second inaugural address — just weeks before he would be gunned down at Ford Theater — that the nation should bind the wounds that had torn it apart. “With malice toward none and charity for all,” the president said, signaling that Confederate leaders wouldn’t be prosecuted for their high crimes against the Union.

Donald John Trump doesn’t grasp any of that, as he made abundantly clear when he attached moral equivalence between two of our nation’s founders and two men who sought — and fought — to destroy the nation.

Compare two presidents’ view of White House

Oh, for a momentary flashback to a time when the president of the United States would express reverence for the People’s House.

I came across an essay that President Barack Obama wrote about the White House. He penned it in 2013, less than a year after his re-election. It’s worth looking at today in light of a remark that his successor, Donald J. Trump, reportedly made to some golfing buddies at a club the president owns in New Jersey.

Trump called the White House a “real dump,” explaining to his pals that’s the reason he spends so much time away from there on the weekends.

I prefer to reflect on Obama’s essay, which you’ll find here.

The former president wrote this essay to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, which President Lincoln delivered in 1863 at the site of the horrific Civil War battle. Obama wrote, in part: “I linger on these few words that have helped define our American experiment: ‘A new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.’”

That is what living in the White House is all about. The structure pays tribute to the struggles that have built our great nation. Barack Obama clearly understood its meaning. Donald Trump does not.

Celebrities’ comments have this way of reverberating

Johnny Depp has joined a list of celebrities with big mouths.

Depp, the movie actor, mused out loud the other day about the last time an actor assassinated a president. He seemed to suggest that’s what he wants to do, follow in the footsteps of another actor, John Wilkes Booth, who shot President Lincoln to death in April 1865.

Bad call, Johnny.

I guess what these folks need to grasp is the notion that their celebrity status not only acquires loyal followings for them, it also magnifies their idiotic statements or actions. For the record, I am not a fan of Johnny Depp.

The “comedian” Kathy Griffin? She was video recorded holding up the image of a severed head depicting that of Donald J. Trump.

The over-the-hill rocker/guitarist Ted Nugent has said a multitude of hideous things about Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Now we have Depp popping off, trying to be clever. Instead he sounds stupid.

Donald Trump’s son, Don Jr., has slammed Depp. You’d expect a son to come to the defense of his father.

Depp has apologized for his idiocy. It doesn’t erase it, sad to say.

These folks are entitled to their political opinions, just as you are entitled to yours and I am to mine. I don’t know about you, but I express my opinions freely on this blog.

The difference, though, between us and those who have some kind of celebrity status is that — in my case, at least — I can sound like a dumba** and relatively few people are going to pay attention. When someone such as Johnny Depp says something stupid, then many others’ ears perk up.

That includes the Secret Service.

A word to wise ought to go to Johnny Depp and other celebs with strongly held political opinions: be circumspect.

Nation’s capital still stirs the emotions

WASHINGTON — This is the most political city in America, if not the world and politics being what it has become in recent decades, this city is full of a lot of hard feelings and recrimination.

You know my own feelings about the current president of the United States. But this blog post isn’t about that — and it damn sure isn’t about him. It’s about the myriad monuments, memorials and assorted structures throughout the city that pay testament to the nation’s greatness.

We came to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It’s like an outdoor church. Visitors lower their voices. They speak in solemn tones. They look at the 58,000-plus names etched into the stone, seeking to recall memories of the individuals who gave their last full measure.

I found a name I had spotted the first time my family and I came here in 1990. He was a young man with whom I served briefly in Vietnam. He was set to go home in a few days, but fate intervened at a landing zone where he and his Huey helicopter unit was ambushed in June 1969 by enemy fighters.

We toured much of the Washington Mall, walked through the World War II, read the inscriptions from the likes of Chester Nimitz, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, George C. Marshall that paid tribute to the brave Americans who — along with soldiers from many other nations — saved the world from tyranny. My all-time favorite veteran, my father, was one of the 16 million Americans who answered the call to duty. I thought of Dad while marveling at the grandeur of the WWII memorial.

Not far from that is the Korean War Memorial, which pays tribute to the “forgotten war.” It, too, cost tens of thousands of American lives. I prayed for the souls of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

We cast our eyes on the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial and toured the FDR Memorial.

For several precious hours while taking all that in, I was able to set aside the events of the moment. I didn’t think a single time about the confusion, controversy and contentiousness of the present day. I thought instead of the great Americans who built the country and created a nation that remains — despite rhetoric to the contrary — the greatest nation in human history.

We had to see these things to remind us of who we are.

Yes, Sen. Cruz, but the Democrats have evolved

Oh, how I hate it when someone I detest is correct … even if he doesn’t tell the whole story.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas delivered a historical truth this week while talking to the Fox News Channel. The Republican said that the Democratic Party is the party of the Ku Klux Klan. He said Democrats — not Republicans — have a history of racism and scorn of minority Americans.

Sure, Ted. I get that. Southern Democrats resisted the enactment of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts of the 1960s; prior to that, some Democrats bolted their mainstream party to form something called the “Dixiecrat Party,” and then ran the late Sen. Strom Thurmond for president in 1948; Thurmond would later leave the Democratic Party to become a Republican. What’s more, Democratic history of racial intolerance goes many years before that.

Indeed, President Lyndon Johnson faced fierce opposition from within his Democratic Party to enact the civil rights legislation. He enlisted political help from his Senate Republican friends to push them through to his signature.

But times and policies can change. They did with the Democratic Party. Democrats “evolved” over time.

It’s one thing to talk about historical perspective. It’s quite another to relate politics and policy in real time.

Cruz’s comments came after Senate Republicans shut down a speech by Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who was reading a letter by the late Coretta Scott King; Warren used the letter to state her opposition to Jeff Sessions becoming the next U.S. attorney general.

Sen. Cruz spoke correctly about Democrats’ sordid history. It’s understandable, too, that he would ignore how the Democratic Party has evolved into a more inclusive organization.

It’s also understandable that he would ignore how his own Grand Old Party has become, well, a bit less inclusive.

I think it’s fair to wonder what President Abraham Lincoln would think today of the political party that carries his name.

‘Atlantic’ makes history with endorsement

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Hillary Rodham Clinton’s pile of media endorsements has added a significant new voice.

While I have conceded that endorsements from elite media organs don’t pack the wallop they once did, this one has gotten some traction.

“The Atlantic” has issued its third presidential endorsement in its 159-year history. The first one went to the nation’s first Republican presidential candidate, a guy named Abraham Lincoln, in 1860.

Five score and four years later, in 1964, “The Atlantic” weighed in with an endorsement of President Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Now it has backed Hillary Clinton.

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/11/the-case-for-hillary-clinton-and-against-donald-trump/501161/?utm_source=atlfb

Here’s a snippet from the editorial: “Today, our position is similar to the one in which The Atlantic’s editors found themselves in 1964. We are impressed by many of the qualities of the Democratic Party’s nominee for president, even as we are exasperated by others, but we are mainly concerned with the Republican Party’s nominee, Donald J. Trump, who might be the most ostentatiously unqualified major-party candidate in the 227-year history of the American presidency.”

This is a fascinating development as the campaign heads for its final month. I’m so glad it’s almost over. I am running out of stamina listening to the candidates trashing each other.

“The Atlantic” concludes its editorial endorsement with this: “We believe in American democracy, in which individuals from various parties of different ideological stripes can advance their ideas and compete for the affection of voters. But Trump is not a man of ideas. He is a demagogue, a xenophobe, a sexist, a know-nothing, and a liar. He is spectacularly unfit for office, and voters—the statesmen and thinkers of the ballot box—should act in defense of American democracy and elect his opponent.”

Ouch, man!

To be candid, the endorsement doesn’t convey unbridled confidence in Clinton’s standing. It’s more of a non-endorsement of  Donald J. Trump. I suppose that sums up what has shaped up to be the theme of this campaign: The candidates cannot stand on their own record exclusively, so they pound away at their opponents’ weaknesses.

Trump is the most profoundly unqualified and unfit candidate for the presidency most of us ever have seen.

Will this endorsement matter? Will it be the difference between winning and losing? I doubt it. Still, it’s worth your time to read and to digest what the editors of a distinguished publication have to say about the next election for the presidency of the United States.

Oh, I am so glad it’s about to be over.

Kim Davis proves the Founders got it right

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Here’s the latest social media missive from former Labor Secretary Robert Reich.

“This morning, on ABC’s ‘This Week,’ Mike Huckabee said Kim Davis’ refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples is equivalent to Abraham Lincoln’s refusal to accept slavery, which was the law of the land when Lincoln became president. ‘You obey it if it’s right,’ Huckabee said, arguing that Davis shouldn’t be jailed. ‘Should Lincoln have been put in jail? Because he ignored the law?’

“So if Kim Davis who opposes gay marriage can refuse to issue a perfectly legal marriage license, a Quaker clerk who’s a pacifist can refuse to issue gun licenses, a clerk who’s a committed environmentalist can refuse to issue building permits, and a clerk who believes in a $15 minimum wage can refuse to issue Walmart a permit to build a new store. What planet does Huckabee live on?

“Here’s a man who was governor of Arkansas and wants to be president of the United States, and he compared Kim Davis to Abraham Lincoln? Sometimes I’m flabbergasted.”

Me, too, Mr. Secretary.

I’ll just add that the Kim Davis gay marriage license debate has demonstrated precisely why the Founding Fathers got it exactly right when they wrote a secular document — the U.S. Constitution — that would become the framework for the federal government.