Friday, December 22, 2006

Bush Another Lincoln?: You Decide

Over at Lawyers, Guns, and Money, Scott points out that right-wing pundit Hugh Hewitt is continuing to contend that a century from now historians will see George W. Bush as another Abraham Lincoln. He writes:

And that's why every president, whether you like him or not, deserves a Doris Kearns Goodwin, who will go back there -- and you don't get it for a hundred fifty years, unfortunately, because Lincoln was so reviled, oh, so hated. Bush has got nothing like the hatred that Lincoln had, but it is eerily, eerily familiar as you read through the political agony of Lincoln. You get a sense of what Bush has been enduring when you read through the revolt of the generals, when you see the political intrigues, the decisions to try and break away, the villainous and vicious press that makes the blogosphere look like kindergarten. That's why -- and I always get hate mail after I do this segment, when I say Bush is Lincoln. It's just a replay, and the Iraqis and the Afghanis are going to be as grateful to his memory as African-Americans are to Lincoln's. That's a lock, it's what they call in the gambling world a mortal lock, and it's not going to take a hundred and fifty years for that to be obvious. In fact, it's already obvious in many parts of both of those countries.
While the good folks at LGM are quick to dismiss this comparison, I'd like to think about it some more. You see, I teach in Gettysburg and everyday I drive past the place where Lincoln delivered his famed address at the cemetery for the war dead. The white alternating rows of headstones cannot but make you somber and reflective. Then, walking from the parking lot to my office, I spot the place where Bush gave a campaign speech last year. These gentlemen are never far from my mind, so I am inclined to think a little more deeply about the claim. Let's examine the similarities and differences.

The differences, to be honest, seem a bit nitpicky:

- One had a beard; the other is clean-shaven.

- One did everything he could to unite a country divided; the other did everything he could to divide a county united.

- One signed the Emancipation Proclamation granting rights to oppressed people; the other favors a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage denying rights to oppressed people.
Like I said, trivial.

But the similarities seem striking:
- One got his education writing on a shovel with coal, a substance high in coke; the other also got his education high on coke.

- One was born in a one-room log cabin; the other was born at a time when behind the main residence on the Kennebunkport estate, the pool house was a one-bedroom bungalow.

- One was a war President because he did not want the southern states to secede; the other was a war President because he did not want the UN weapons inspectors to succeed.

- One wrote his deepest thoughts about ending a war and respecting the war dead on the back of an envelope; the other could write all of his deepest thoughts about ending a war and respecting the war dead on the back of an envelope.
As a philosopher, I don't want to answer this question for you, but I don't think that Hewitt's contention is as far fetched as some might make it seem...