Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Nation Admires a War Criminal

In "Our Lincoln" left-leaning The Nation, in an effort to somehow claim Abraham Lincoln for the left, actually does an admirable job of describing his brilliant and often conflicted brain.

But in three pages of looking back at Lincoln's personal and national struggles to end slavery during four years of civil war, The Nation couldn't find one sentence to describe for readers the compromises to civil liberties Lincoln found essential to victory in that war.

Suspension of civil law and habeus corpus, blowing off the Supreme Court, and arresting dissidents in the thousands. It all happened. I don't criticize Lincoln for these actions. As Judge Richard Posner has stated, civil liberties are not a suicide pact.

What I find offensive on a regular basis about the Left's treatment of Lincoln is its attempt to rewrite his history to erase qualities about Lincoln it finds unsavory.

The Nation has spent the last eight years (10 pages of entries on the subject) decrying the relatively insignificant "compromises" to civil liberties under the Bush administration. Yet, it can write about the great man Lincoln and neglect to note, for the record, that he took extreme measures to insure military victory. The kind of measures, that if taken by the Bush administration The Nation would not even be able to whine about because its press would be shut down; its editors in jail without charges.

The Nation fails to accurately characterize Lincoln on purpose I have no doubt. It becomes a lot harder to stake claim to such a great man if you must endorse the kinds of actions that even the perception of has practically driven you over the cliff for almost a decade. So, it simply leaves that out of the story.

Lincoln was a great man. But the drastic actions he took to win the civil war are part of that story, not an embarrassing footnote to be left out of a historical rewrite. The Nation does the presidency, and history itself, a shameful disservice omitting such an important part of the story. And doing so is at odds with its own editorial policy, which appears to have been to harp on any perceived erosion of civil liberties over the last eight years.

Of course, The Nation has no interest in fairness here. It seeks only to claim for itself someone history has determined to be a great man. That it would have tarred him as a war criminal had he been alive and in office today ends up being one of those sweet, obscure ironies most people will never no small part because outlets like The Nation have worked so hard to help us forget.

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