Stop It With the Lincoln Thing

Barack Obama will be sworn in with Lincoln's bible, and then he'll eat Lincoln's lunch. Seriously, the Inaugural Menu is all stuff Lincoln might've eaten. Spare us.

First off as that official website points out, the Inaugural Luncheon "tradition" only really dates back to Eisenhower. Secondly, they will be pairing their Lincoln food with 2000s-vintage California wines. Lincoln didn't drink. And if he had, he would've drank whiskey.

This wonderful page from Nickelodeon (??) shows the Obamas visiting the Lincoln Memorial, and then it lists all the important Lincoln-Obama connections, just like those old "Lincoln had a secretary named Kennedy and vice versa" conspiracy things. Uh oh! They both began their careers in Illinois and Obama's going to ride the train Lincoln rode to the capital and then the Lincoln bible thing, yeesh. "200 years from today, kids will study what's happening right now just as you study the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and all the other major events of US history." That is the optimistic version of the old Chinese curse about "interesting times."

Stop It With the Lincoln ThingS




Obama started it off with the "Team of Rivals" nonsense when he picked a bunch of former political opponents to fill his cabinet, which was just annoying because these opponents were, for the most part, not very impressive (Bill Richardson?). (Also wither Alan Keyes?)

But guess what? Every president in the world likes to pretend they're the second coming of Lincoln. Bush likes to compare himself to Lincoln, and look how well that worked out! Just today he mentioned to everyone how he's been reading a lot about Lincoln, which is probably a lie, but still.

The Lincoln thing—that you're the moody quiet genius who'll save the whole country singlehandedly and then end up a damn martyr—is not just presumptuous, it's damaging. We'd all love for our presidents to save the nation should something like the Civil War break out again, and it'd be great if every president could do something as grand and morally necessary as ending slavery, but they should probably set their sights a little lower before they start exaggerating crises to the extent that they suddenly start looking like they need Lincolnian solutions (like suspending Habeus Corpus or secret CIA prisons).

Lincoln presided over a long, terrible civil war! And his son died! And his wife was crazy! And then he was killed! Stick with Roosevelt—he dealt with crises too, and no one ever killed him, and he got along just fine with his non-crazy wife, despite the sleeping around thing.

Oh, and here is the other point about Lincoln: he was a radical pragmatist. In that he resisted the aims of what was the "loony left" of his day in favor of more workable, moderate solutions. And back then of course the "loony left" wanted Lincoln to free all the slaves, and Lincoln kinda preferred something more workable like "only freeing some of the slaves." He gave in eventually though! The modern-day equivalent of all this is Obama, who comes from a progressive background and surely personally wants things like gay marriage and universal health care and, you know, socialism, not actually backing those things.

So let's all stop pretending at being Lincoln and focus on maybe just trying to be some magical new kind of president who doesn't disappoint everyone.

[Pic by Ron English, via AnimalNY]