Tuesday, December 23, 2008

2009: Year of Lincoln

Steve Benen is calling attention to an exceedingly strange article on the Politico web site. It's against our principles to link to Politico; there, however, two reporters by the names of John F. Harris (editor of Politico) and Alexander Burns are snidely implying, to quote Benen quoting them, "that Barack Obama faces a possible 'backlash' for his 'ostentatious embrace of all things Lincoln.'"

We've read the Harris-Burns piece all the way through to spare you the pain. Here's the foundation they supply for claiming that Obama is "ostentatious" in his "embrace of all things Lincoln":
In Barack Obama's appearance last month on CBS's "60 Minutes," the conversation turned to the president-elect's long-time love of Lincoln.

"There is a wisdom there," Obama told interviewer Steve Kroft, "and a humility about his approach to government, even before he was president, that I just find very helpful."
On January 20th, President-elect Barack Obama will take the oath of office using the same Bible upon which President Lincoln was sworn in at his first inauguration
What makes the Politico piece fundamentally misleading and even mendacious is that the two Politico writers then go on to scatter a few historians' quotes around the rest of the article as if the historians were being critical of Obama for using the Lincoln bible or for finding "wisdom" in Lincoln. Here's just one classic example you can file away with your Jayson Blair memorabilia:
Eric Foner, a Columbia historian who has written extensively on the Civil War era, agreed that comparing one's self to Lincoln sets a rather high bar for success, and could come off like "a certain kind of hubris."
Do you see the John Wilkes Booth in this journalistic theater? Foner isn't saying that Obama compares himself to Lincoln. How could he? Only Harris and Burns are making that claim. What Foner does say is that if someone were "comparing himself to Lincoln" it would take hubris.

You can smell the age on this smarmy journalistic trick out of a very old bag. The rest of the Harris-Burns piece uses much the same kind of slight-of-hand and misdirection.

But that's not why we mention it. Politico is full of that kind of crap and there isn't time enough in any year to call that execrable web site out on every piece of trash it prints.

What we want to bring to your attention is that in the coming year we'll all be celebrating Abraham Lincoln. Feb. 12, 2009 is the bicentenniel of Abraham Lincoln's birthday. The Lincoln Bicentennial Commission is scheduling commemorative events throughout the entire year -- and beyond -- officially starting with the rededication of the Lincoln Memorial.

At last count, 22 states also have established Lincoln Bicentennial Commissions. Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, and the other states that formerly rebelled and joined the Confederacy are not yet among them, if you were wondering, but that doesn't preclude them from enjoying many of the traveling exhibits that will be touring the nation and even staging local events themselves. Every one of the fifty states has a coordinator position which you can contact for further information.

Among the Florida events we are looking forward to seeing are --
And, for the sake of what we hope by then will be regarded as "the bad old days" of the past eight years, maybe we'll trek out to California to attend the symposium at Chapman University Law School on "Lincoln's Constitutionalism in Time of War: Lessons for the Current War on Terror?"

There is a certain justice in knowing that Barack Obama will be president as we celebrate Lincoln's 200th birthday. Call it "hubris,"as Harris and Burns no doubt would, but we hope then-president Obama finds time to attend some of these bicentennial events himself.

No doubt Politico would find it "ostentatious" of him, too, but we think Lincoln himself would approve.

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