Throughout his campaign, Barack Obama invoked the name and memory of Abraham Lincoln. Initially, I thought he was simply reaching out to middle America. But he continued after the election, when he no longer needed to.
In his election night speech in Grant Park, he said: "Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House - a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share…."
In the closing days of the campaign, he paraphrased Lincoln in his stump speech. He said: "Government should only do for people what they cannot do for themselves."
When picking his cabinet, he referenced Lincoln's approach and selected a "Team of Rivals." And finally, he was the first President to use the Lincoln Bible for his swearing in since Lincoln himself.
For anyone who admires Lincoln, that comes as a comfort. Watching our new President carry himself with grace and dignity through inauguration day, however, there can be cause for misgivings. When the media interviewed his supporters, you had to wonder how anyone can fulfill their expectations of a biblical Jubilee (all debts forgiven, all wealth redistributed equally) while preserving the values of self-reliance and individual liberty?
Consider the philosophical divisions within our society, and it's easy to recall the words from Lincoln's second inaugural address. Referring to the sides of a bloody civil war, he said: "Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other….. The prayers of both could not be answered…."
When you look to the agenda of the far left, it's difficult to see how any President can unite the country and bring us together. How can the prayers of both be answered?
But since President Obama has paraphrased Lincoln on the role of government, and since he has called for a new "Era of Responsibility," I want to take him at his word. In fact, I'd like to offer a few of Lincoln's other admonitions on the role of government. They're generally called the "Ten Cannots."
You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong
You cannot help the poor man by destroying the rich.
You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
You cannot build character and courage by taking away man's initiative and independence.
You cannot help small men by tearing down big men.
You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.
You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income.
You cannot establish security on borrowed money.
You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they will not do for themselves.
These are good precepts to recall because we live in a dangerous time. Could anything be more "today" than #8 and #9?
Consider the financial crisis. We have just witnessed the greatest financial fraud in human history. Michael Lewis, the author of "Liar's Poker" and a respected Wall Street critic, has said the collapse of the Investment banks was carried out with: "the total unabashed complicity of the upper class of American capitalism." Warren Buffett called it simply "stealing."
This on-going criminal enterprise was then followed by the single greatest act of extortion in history. Forget Tony Soprano. Neither Al Capone, Sam Giancana, nor any real life crime boss ever considered extorting $700 billion from a people. Wall Street did, and apparently they aren't done yet.
Personally, I want to see the government vigorously prosecute all (as in every single one) of those guilty of fraud if only because if they do not, the American people will have no choice but to make judgments based on class and income alone. That's how you generate class hatred. It also sets the stage for a repeat performance.
Lincoln was right. But crooks are everyone's foe and you cannot avoid class hatred if any class of people are above the law and allowed to make honest people suffer without retribution. Institutions may be too big to fail. No individual is too big or too rich to prosecute. If that's what America has become, then we'd better get busy taking it back.
If President Obama delivers that retribution to the American people, then who knows, maybe some of the prayers of both can be answered.
Here's one final thought for our new President. I think he knows it already. We all know that George W. Bush scored the lowest approval numbers since polling was invented. But President Obama should remember which President scored the highest approval numbers in history…………. It was George W. Bush, immediately after the invasion of Afghanistan.
The ancient Romans knew it well. They said: Sic Transit Gloria Mundi (All glory is fleeting). And as always, the cuts that will hurt the most will be those he gets in the back.
So, God speed Mr. President. As a conservative Republican, I'm not going to say, "I've got your back." But if you really do follow Abraham Lincoln's philosophy, don't worry about us. That's the side you'll need to watch.