Still thinking about Lincoln and the current Bush and whether they would have been on the same side during the current or former unpleasantness. I figured the White House must have had a Lincoln’s Birthday event that might shed some light on the question. Checking the White House site, sure enough: George and Laura hosted a performance of “Lincoln Seen and Heard,” a dramatic presentation of some of the 16th president’s speeches and writings. Sam Waterston, who was Lincoln’s voice for Ken Burns’s Civil War series, presented the Gettysburg Address and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. The latter was delivered about five weeks before Lee surrendered at Appomattox; it had finally become clear which way the way would go. Yet Lincoln’s words, which he knew would be read in the South, are entirely without a sense of triumph. Bush could have learned something from that before he put the flight suit on and flew out to that carrier. But of course, if he was liable to learn a lesson like that, he wouldn’t be our George.
At the end of the evening, Bush talked briefly about what he had heard. He said Lincoln was our greatest president. And he hinted, of course, that Lincoln’s words bolster his program to shock and awe the world’s evildoers out of existence with high explosives and the wonders of democracy:
“The Civil War was decided on the battlefield; the larger fight for America’s soul was waged with Lincoln’s words. In his own day, Lincoln set himself squarely against a culture that held that some human beings were not intended by their Maker for freedom. And as President, he acted in the conviction that holding the Union together was the only way to hold America true to the founding promise of freedom and equality for all. And that is why, in my judgment, he was America’s greatest President.
“We’re familiar with the words of the Gettysburg Address, and the Second Inaugural, so eloquently read by Sam. And this performance reminds us that Lincoln wrote his words to be spoken aloud — to persuade, to challenge, and to inspire. Abraham Lincoln was a master of the English language, but his true mother tongue was liberty.
“I hope that every American might have the experience we had here tonight, to hear Lincoln’s words delivered with Lincoln’s passion, and to leave with a greater appreciation for what these words of freedom mean in our own time.”
3 Replies to “Lincoln and Bush”
“Decided on the battlefield?” That war is still going on in some places, too. Or, at least, some people think so.
Anyway, in front of a small gathering in the White House, when all is quiet in the United States, even though we are neck deep in a war he got us into, for, as we all now know, somewhat shady reasons, George works on polishing his image. He so much wants to be considered a statesman. Of course, they all do. But, the thing is, statesmen are not manufactured or cranked out.
Marie, what great points about leadership and about the war still being fought. I was looking around at random last night wondering whether Bush has said anything about Robert E. Lee, and I came across a long, long, long thread on the Free Republic site about Lee’s birthday (which is in January near the time of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday). I was really depressed to read the posts talking about how 1) Lee fought on the right side in the Civil War and 2) how the reasons for the war had nothing to do with slavery. I know this kind of thing has always gone on, but come on. Lee surrendered 140 years ago and people are still clinging to this garbage (some right-winger actually has a book out called “Robert E. Lee on Leadership”; for crying out loud — the man violated his military oath and took up arms against his government; I thought that was called treason, not leadership. All for a higher purpose, of course. Which had nothing whatsoever to do with slavery).
Good grief, as a philosopher once said. It’s just another thing that makes me feel like a total stranger in my own country.
Oh, by the way, I’ve been “ego-surfing” Abe’s name daily for over a year now, and as I suspected, and you probably, too, they’re all invoking Abe to bolster their political agendas. Whether it be hackers from down under, or some obscure politician in the Catskills, from India to Alaska, they’re getting a lot of mileage out of him, too.