Much of this says less about Obama than about the times. But the president manages to make his own presidency seem smaller by his frequent invocations of our greatest president. Obama, who launched his first presidential campaign in the place where Abraham Lincoln delivered his “House Divided” speech, will place his hand Monday, as he did in 2009, on the Bible Lincoln used for his 1861 inauguration.
Obama requested to give this year’s State of the Union address on Lincoln’s birthday. He held a screening of the movie “Lincoln” in the White House and went to lunch at the new Lincoln restaurant. He’s paid a couple of visits to the Lincoln Memorial and reports that he likes to reread the handwritten Gettysburg Address in the Lincoln Bedroom and ponder the Emancipation Proclamation, hanging in the Oval Office. He compared the criticism he has received as president to that Lincoln received. In the Atlantic, Obama wrote a year ago that Lincoln “calls on us through the ages to commit ourselves to the unfinished work he so nobly advanced — the work of perfecting our Union.”
Obama does have one thing in common with Lincoln: Rains have left the Capitol grounds muddy, just as they were when Lincoln took his second oath of office there, at the East Front, in 1865. Yet the comparison ends at that: Lincoln was at that time winning the Civil War and permanently abolishing slavery. Today, instead of great moral causes, we have ceaseless and petty bickering over paying federal debts.