Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

A preface on gaining friends and losing wisdom

I note John Moser’s point below (and Victor Davis Hanson’s) only because I trust them more than I do, for example, Robert Kuttner, who wrote on the same theme just two days after Hanson did. Kuttner uses Doris Kearns Goodwin’s new book on Lincoln, Team of Rivals, to make some points: 1) Lincoln is not Bush; 2) Lincoln was better at persuading people than Bush is; 3) Lincoln was a genius at "winning the trust and affection of rivals," and Bush is not; 4) Lincoln included in his cabinet "prominent leaders of different factions of his party who had opposed him for the 1860 nomination"; 5) Lincoln read books, Bush does not; 6) Lincoln wrote his own speeches, Bush does not. 7) Lincoln grew in office, Bush does not (and, by the way, no Republican has ever "grown in office" since Lincoln, I would add!). You get the drift. There is more. I like this sentence: "Despite civil insurrection, Lincoln resisted broad intrusions on democratic rights. Bush runs roughshod over liberties." Yet, Mr. Kuttner believes that the Union will survive the Bush presidency, although he does not tell us why. There is more to be said on these matters, and I’m working myself up to will take weeks at this pace. But I will mention, en passant, only this. Whenever a Liberal writes a book on Lincoln (Goodwin in this case, and David Herbert Donald a few years ago), the Liberal cognoscenti shout Lincoln’s perceived liberal virtues at those of us who belong to his party and who find him estimable for all of his virtues, including his steadfastness, his unbowing principles, his love of the nation and "the cause of my country," and his courage to fight the war with all his might. I find the Liberal shouting both offensive and childish. Is this the best they can do? Whine about not having enough Liberals in the Cabinet? Or whine about not being consulted enough? Where are the finely tuned Liberal minds of old, where is the brain trust, where are the best and the brightest? I see carpers only. Wesley Clark would have become a Republican if only Karl Rove would have returned his phone calls? We are to spend time reflecting on this? Sometimes this great world bores me.

Discussions - 8 Comments

Mr. Kuttner would be well advised if he read a little bit on the relationship between President Lincoln and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Roger B. Tawney.

"Despite civil insurrection, Lincoln resisted broad intrusions on democratic rights. Bush runs roughshod over liberties."

Uh, yeah, sure, dude. This kind of intellectual vacancy masquerading as historical inspiration for liberal troops these days is just amazing. No lie, no falsehood, no distortion of fact seems out of reach for these folks to swallow whole. I won’t even try to correct the record on this blatant notion of how Lincoln supposedly "resisted broad intrusions on democratic rights."

Ah, if it makes ’em feel good just to bash Bush another day, anything goes!

As I remember from another bio, members of Lincoln’s own cabinet called him a "moron" and a "baboon." He was a crude westerner who told raunchy jokes and ate cornbread for dinner. He was despised by his own party while in office. Only the freed blacks saw him as we see him today.

While we’re at it, am I the only one who actually remembers how reviled ALL presidents are while in office? Then later, hey he was a good president! Remember the astounding rehab of Carter? I’ve never seen anyone really address this phenomenon.

It is indeed nerve-wracking when the man is still in office because you don’t know for sure what he’s going to do or say next. Out of office, out of danger.

Touche! Prof. Schramm. The best they can do is, apparently, Joe Lieberman. It doesn’t get much more boring than that.

I don’t find this a boring consideration at all. Apparently we must be in the midst of a truly epochal struggle; how else to explain why the administration thinks it should be able to conduct wiretaps without a court order? Well, historically presidents (and at least one British PM--namely, Winston Churchill) in times of grave international crisis have set up cabinets that include prominent members of the opposition party. This doesn’t mean that principles are sacrificed; it’s simply a recognition that foreign policy ought not be a partisan matter. We continue to disagree over important matters, but we present a united front to the world.

And don’t tell me that it’s because the Democrats are being obstructionist. Sure they are, now, but in 2001, 2002, and for much of 2003 they were pretty much following the president’s lead in foreign policy. It was ultimately the unexpected strength of the insurgency in Iraq, and the unexpected strength of the Howard Dean insurgency within the Democratic Party, that allowed the yahoos to move to the fore. Today Joe Lieberman sounds like a voice crying out in the wilderness, but that was simply not the case three years ago. Arguably a bit more flexibility on the president’s part--i.e., statesmanship--could have kept the grown-ups in charge of the opposition party.

The president has behaved as though he is so certain of the rightness of his policies (as opposed to the rightness of his principles, which is a different thing altogether) and certain of the unworthiness of his political opponents that he has no need to consult anyone outside of his inner circle. This might be fine for domestic affairs, but in time of international crisis it is downright dangerous. In this he reminds me not of Lincoln, but of Woodrow Wilson. And we know what became of his foreign policy vision....

"Arguably a bit more flexibility on the president’s part--i.e., statesmanship--could have kept the grown-ups in charge of the opposition party."

Apparently Mr. Moser has forgotten what became of Bush’s attempts at "statesmanship". No Child Left Behind, anyone?

I like the fact that Mr. Moser blames the Dem’s self-inflicted idiocy on Bush - it’s just another Bush-bashing excuse for the travesty that has become the Democratic party. There haven’t been any grown-ups in power in the Democratic party for quite a while. Lieberman was window dressing - witness his sudden flips on vouchers and affirmative action once he became VP candidate. Those flips were forced by Gore’s people - who certainly weren’t demonstrating any grown-up behavior for the Dems. Certainly Clinton wasn’t a grown-up or a statesman, nor was he a giant on national security. The Dems got where they are on their own (dis)abilities, not on some perceived lack of "statesmanship" by Bush.

The only "statesman" anywhere on the Dems side is Sen. Russ Feingold. He acts like a statesman while parroting and courting the extreme left wing of the Dems.

I like the fact that Mr. Moser blames the Dem’s self-inflicted idiocy on Bush - it’s just another Bush-bashing excuse for the travesty that has become the Democratic party.

Bush doesn’t deserve all the blame, of course. The willingness of mainstream Democrats to parrot the Howard Dean line once they thought it had become fashionable is shameful. But the fact that the Dems were being excluded from any place at the table certainly meant that they had no reason for sticking around. An attempt at bipartisan foreign policy might have ended in failure, but at least it wouldn’t have been for lack of trying.

Also, I’m curious as to whether there is any meaningful difference between what I consider measured criticism of the president, and "Bush-bashing"? Was it "Bush-bashing" when conservatives criticized his choice of Harriet Miers, for instance?

I read "Lincoln Reconsidered" by David P. Davis and for (fellow) liberals to kvetch about Bush not being Lincoln is just whining. True, Bush is not Lincoln. W. does not wear a stovepipe hat. But like Carol said, all Presidents, including Lincoln, were reveiled in their present. There were SIX assassination attempts on Lincoln, doen’t that prove he was not that popular?? AND Lincoln suspended the writ of habeus corpus, meaning the government could pick up anyone without court approval. Can we say "facist-like"?
OTOH, John Moser is right about Bush and the right keeping the Dems out of the government process. the right were immaturely beserk over Miers not because she was a "crony" but because they were not sure she was "right" enough. Such behavior by the right puts them in a self-destructive postion. When it’s not bipartisan, you can’t point fingers at anyone but yourselves.

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