Obama has not made up his mind on what to do in Afghanistan, so the way he talks about war and about death in war is significant. Lately, it’s almost panic-inducing. After last Tuesday, it seems that Obama’s well-known worship of Abraham Lincoln is starting to tip over into a fantasy of actually being Abraham Lincoln.
At Fort Hood, not only did Obama explicitly mention Lincoln, but he repeated a line from the Gettysburg Address almost verbatim—“We are a nation that is dedicated to the proposition that all men and women are created equal”—and twice borrowed cadences and language from that legendary brief speech. Echoing Lincoln’s “testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure,” Obama referred to a “nation” that “endures” three times. He also repeated the Gettysburg Address’s themes of sacrifice and necessary suffering.
Why should the president drawing on a great American figure like Abraham Lincoln be a cause for concern? It should worry us because you can admire Lincoln’s achievement in freeing the slaves and keeping the Union together, but also be horrified by his bloodlust in doing so, and his sense of himself as a biblical hero. You don’t have to be a despicable Lincoln-hater to not want to associate yourself with the smarmy and sanctimonious Lincoln-idolators. Any contemporary president who consciously models himself on Lincoln is quite possibly going to lead us all into hell.