The Lincoln Project’s ads—personally abusive, overwrought, pointlessly salacious, and trip-wired with non sequiturs—are familiar: They are undertaken with all the relish the president shows when he jokes about the mental hiccups of “Sleepy” Joe Biden, just as four years ago, he happily implied that Hillary Clinton suffered from some nameless disease. One reason Trump does this is to annoy his opponents; now his opponents’ supporters are returning the favor…

The uneven pedigree of this motley crew hasn’t kept mainstream publications from referring to the Lincoln Project as a “conservative PAC.” This misnomer affords the group the privilege of having their cake and eating it too: Coming from Republicans, their attacks may appear fresh, principled, and transpartisan, while remaining stale, unprincipled, and partisan. Like many unhappy former Republicans, the leaders of the project have crossed over from being “never Trump” to being “never Republican,” taking aim even at such GOP moderates as Cory Gardner and Susan Collins. Their most recent ad, called “How a President Leads,” is an unabashed valentine to Joe Biden.

Which is fine! But they’d do better, for the sake of history and intellectual honesty, to leave Lincoln out of it. Lincoln ripened, history shows us, and grew away from the young pol he’d been on the Illinois prairie. The circle of his sympathy expanded, his soul deepened. Such growth is unlikely to overtake the Lincoln Project while it peers obsessively at the object of its hatred. This is an old story: We become what we behold. The project partakes of the spirit of a famous Republican president, all right. But he’s not Lincoln.