January 21, 2009

WHEN YOU PUT IT THAT WAY...:

Abraham Obama by Ron English

Image by Laughing Squid via Flickr

Lincoln's Lessons for a New President: Nothing comes easy in the White House. (JAY WINIK, 1/22/09, WSJ)
Now that the grandeur of the inauguration is over, this morning is President Barack Obama's first in the Oval Office, and the hard work of governing finally begins. More than any president in memory, Mr. Obama has evoked Abraham Lincoln. He made his presidential announcement in Springfield, Ill., where Lincoln once served as a legislator. He copiously read Lincoln histories. He placed his hand yesterday on the Lincoln Bible. But what are the real lessons of Abraham Lincoln for his presidency?

Early on, Lincoln learned that tumult is inherent in governing. Mr. Obama has already declared that he doesn't want "drama" within his cabinet and staff, but Lincoln's experience suggests that he should expect precisely that. From the outset of his administration, Lincoln's secretary of state, William Seward, a former senator from New York, was assiduously scheming against his president. Where Lincoln saw civil war as inevitable, Seward was freelancing, calling for negotiations with the South and privately telling Confederates that their differences could be peacefully resolved.
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Then there were Lincoln's problems with his generals. In 1862, despite Lincoln's pleading, Gen. George McClellan refused to attack the Confederates. When senators clamored for McClellan to be removed, Lincoln feebly replied, "Whom shall I put in command?" "Well anybody!" Sen. Benjamin Wade told Lincoln. "Well anybody will do for you," Lincoln said, "but not for me. I must have somebody!"

Only after much wasted time was McClellan finally dismissed. But from there, Lincoln had to contend with a procession of woefully unsatisfactory generals until he eventually found Ulysses S. Grant: He had to fire Ambrose Burnside, get rid of Joseph Hooker, and marginalize George Meade. Even at war's end, Lincoln was still struggling to forge consensus inside his administration. He outlined his vision for reincorporating the South into the Union, only to meet with fierce resistance from his own cabinet. In one revealing moment, the president sheepishly said, "You are all against me."


...substitute Democrats in Congress for the Cabinet and W is Lincoln with Petraeus as Grant.



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Posted by Orrin Judd at January 21, 2009 1:30 PM
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