7.20.2005

Bush, Lincoln parallels?

Just finished Gore Vidal's Lincoln -- a ripping good read. The Supreme Court pick yesterday got me thinking 1) There is nothing new under the sun -- corruption, lies, deceit, and raw power politics have always been a game to the powerful who rule, and 2) There are some strange similarities...

Bush: Carefully crafted campaign persona as humble blue-collar worker (rancher) when truth is otherwise (trust-fund businessman)
Lincoln: Carefully crafted campaign persona as humble blue-collar worker (rail-splitter) when truth was otherwise (attorney)

Bush: Perceived as bumbling hick, laughed at, underestimated by Washington establishment
Lincoln: Perceived as bumbling hick, laughed at, underestimated by Washington establishment

Bush: Barely elected after spotty political past, minority president
Lincoln: Barely elected after spotty political past, minority president

Bush: Snuck into White House through back door to avoid protesters
Lincoln: Snuck into Washington in disguise to avoid assassins

Bush: Rushed to war, justified by patriotic appeals, to recapture defiant, radical states and secure source important raw material (oil)
Lincoln: Rushed to war, justified by patriotic appeals, to recapture defiant, radical states and secure important raw material (cotton)

Bush: Leader of larger business wing of Republican party with majorities in both houses of Congress, needs rabid, radical wing to maintain power
Lincoln: Leader of larger business wing of Republican party with majorities in both houses of Congress, needed rabid, radical wing to maintain power

Bush: Seen as inactive, unresponsive to needs of radical faction of own party, but supported anyway
Lincoln: Seen as inactive, unresponsive to needs of radical faction of own party, but supported anyway

Bush: Uses wily folksy charm to somehow outmaneuver more seasoned, sophisticated rivals with help from guru (Rove)
Lincoln: Used wily folksy charm to somehow outmaneuver more seasoned, sopisticated rivals with help from guru (Seward)

Bush: Reelection prospects iffy against peacenik military officer Democrat, barely wins anyway
Lincoln: Reelection prospects iffy against peacenik military officer Democrat, barely wins anyway

Bush: Perceived by enemies as craven power-hungry tyrant unafraid to toss aside Constitutional rights as necessity of war
Lincoln: Perceived by enemies as craven power-hungry tyrant unafraid to toss aside Constitutional rights as necessity of war

Bush: Nominated extreme SC justice to please rabid minority faction of party (Roberts)
Lincoln: Nominated extreme SC justice to please rabid minority faction of party (Chase)

Bush: Probably believes blacks should be forcibly colonized to South America
Lincoln: Believed blacks should be forcibly colonized to South America

Bush: No interest in foreign affairs except as war prospects, takes dim view of French
Lincoln: No interest in foreign affairs except as war prospects, took dim view of French

There may be others. This is partly tongue-in-cheek. And there are big differences (Rove sees Bush more as McKinley, himself as Mark Hanna, and the great battle to be over the reascendency of powerful business interests). The main change is that the overall liberal/conservative political equation, or the social side anyway, has flip-flopped between the parties, of course -- I would have been on Lincoln's side and seen him as a strong hero, whereas I'm on the other side when it comes to Bush. An evil tyrant is all in your perspective, I guess.

7 comments:

chad said...

Nevertheless, whatever mythos has grown up around both of them, we have lincoln's speaches as proof of an intelligence and an inner life. No such proof exists in Bush's case; in fact, there is much evidence to suggest the contrary. If, in liconln's case, those speaches were as much a pose as any of bush's (it would be naive to think completely otherwise) at least they are eloquent and have elevated the art of political rhetoric (see Obama as a potential heir).

Grendel said...

Absolutely. Lincoln was a brilliant, eloquent lawyer who wrote his own speeches, a self-made man who rose from poverty. Bush is a C-student and failed businessman who couldn't write a grocery list, and a scion of a wealthy political dynasty.

Pete said...

I'm not exactly a Lincoln defender, but I don't think that "rushed to war" is a fair appraisal of how he handled the secession crisis. Particularly if you consider who shot first.

Brando said...

One key difference is that Lincoln was not a chimp.

And who hasn't taken a dim view of the French?

Grendel said...

True that, Pete. "Went to war" is better, but bear in mind lots of people wanted him to find a diplomatic solution -- they were throwing tons of them at him. Many at first could scarcely believe he really meant to go to war to "preserve the union." Nothing in the Constitution says states can't leave. But then the rebs shot first, as you say, and folks got on board.

I do defend him as the greatest president. He threaded political needle after needle that continually astonished everyone, even Chase and Seward. No president ever had such troubles -- civil war, son dying, mad wife with Confederate relations, incompetent generals, bitter hatred from all political directions, assassins everywhere, France and England licking their chops -- and he bore these troubles with such humor and dignity! Incredible.

the plunge said...

I read this in a poker article in the New York Times by cards writer extraordinaire James McManus (for poker players, his awesome, awesome book Positively Fifth Street is a must read). Anyway, file this under the Lincoln is a badass column:

"In 1861 a British vessel bearing Confederate envoys was intercepted by a Yankee captain, creating a problem that threatened to bring Britain into the war on the side of the South. "One war at a time" was President Lincoln's rationale as he freed the ambassadors. Other politicians demanded to know whether he would also apologize to the Crown. "Your question reminds me of an incident which occurred out west," Lincoln said, according to Carl Sandburg. "Two roughs were playing cards for high stakes, when one of them, suspecting his adversary of foul play, straightway drew his bowie-knife from his belt and pinned the hand of the other player upon the table, exclaiming: 'If you haven't got the ace of spades under your palm, I'll apologize.'"

Pete said...

I think Polk is more like Bush than Lincoln is. Now there's a president need of a bestselling biography.

Lincoln can be on my fantasy presidents team, sure. But I don't know if he's my ace or anything.