A reader quotes from the Lincoln quote I quoted:
This our Convention understood to be the most oppressive of all Kingly oppressions; and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us. But your view destroys the whole matter, and places our President where kings have always stood.
Except that now we have a volunteer army and the draft doesn’t exist. So the “Kingly oppression” only falls on those who choose to put themselves at the mercy of a dysfunctional executive branch. Bring back the draft and I suspect we will suddenly find this argument rather ubiquitous.
The quote you printed was not from Lincoln when he was Commander-In-Chief; it was a letter to William Herndon regarding the Mexican war … when Lincoln was a congressman. Lincoln actually felt a little different later when he was president. This evolution happens to eventual presidents, as you know.
(As an aside, Herndon, Lincoln’s closest confidant, was my great, great, great uncle, and was always known as “Uncle Billy” in my family.)
Another remarks on that evolution:
Certainly this Congressman Lincoln should be more rightly compared to a Senator Obama – a much more liberal man who denounced the Cuban embargo and then goes on as president to renew it for the sixth time in a row; or a man who can denounce the very concept of the Iraq war and then as President go on to bomb Libya, Iraq, and Syria. So maybe Obama has a little more Lincoln in him than at first glance.
More readers reassert the parallels between Obama and Lincoln:
You know, of course, that Lincoln‘s Congress never declared war on the Confederates in order to weasel around international law. For the Union to declare war would have meant recognition of the Confederate States of America as a sovereign nation. In the fight against ISIL, who are we to declare war against?
Your sky-is-falling reaction to these airstrikes (quagmire! mission creep! Bush-like!) is really disappointing.
Another gets into more detail over Lincoln’s war:
You cited Lincoln for his statement of constitutional restraint. Have you read his history? Lincoln stands as one of our great presidents (I put only Washington above him) because of his capacity to wrestle with moral and civic complexity and almost always come out right. But keep in mind what he unilaterally determined as necessary in order to deal with the tick-tock of an existential crisis, from the suspension of habeas corpus (find me something more constitutionally fundamental than that) to the imposition of martial law in unaligned border states (the state of Missouri was still under martial law when Lincoln died.)
On balance, though, we are deeply grateful to Lincoln for doing what had to be done. He was willing to personally commit the sins necessary for the nation’s salvation.
In the present crisis, we have the president confronted with a rapidly growing force of genocidal malevolence with genuinely global implications – and this time around it’s indeed a crisis that is open and actual. We also have a Congress that may well have buried itself to a new depth of partisan triviality. In the meanwhile, in lieu of any other nation or entity that is capable, we are the world’s last resort against the horrors that the worst angels of our nature are capable of.
(Photo: Barack Obama’s hand lies on a Bible owned by President Abraham Lincoln as he is sworn in as the 44th US president on January 20, 2009. By Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)