Thursday, April 3, 2008

McCain the Next 'Honest Abe'? Highly Doubtful.

John McCain claims that he is a proud to be a Republican in the tradition of “Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan.” Knowing what I do about Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Reagan, I am more than skeptical of McCain’s claim (except for the Reagan part). And, knowing what I do about McCain’s general level of knowledge (low), I am assuming that if someone were to ask him to compare himself to Lincoln and Roosevelt, he would have no clue where to start. And, just a note for his speech writers: before you write something for your candidate, make sure he can back it up when you’re not there.

Since this is kind of long, I’m going to have to do it in two parts. I’ve decided to leave Reagan out because we can all remember his policies, and Reagan was no Lincoln or Roosevelt either. I’ve highlighted some governing philosophies of Lincoln, and we’ll see if McCain is following his “tradition.”

It’s important to note that Lincoln was a Washington outsider. Lincoln spent only two years in the House of Representatives and took a ten year hiatus before he ran for President. Lincoln also had no military experience. Abraham Lincoln highlights:

  • In 1846, he spoke out against the Mexican-American, which he attributed to President Polk's desire for "military glory."
  • Lincoln did not support war for personal gain or presidential legacy. McCain has solidly supported Bush’s war and delusions of military glory.

  • After declaring "God of Heaven has forgotten to defend the weak and innocent, and permitted the strong band of murderers and demons from hell to kill men, women, and children, and lay waste and pillage the land of the just," Lincoln became a political liability and chose not to run for re-election.
  • Lincoln spoke out against injustice, regardless of the consequences. McCain used to speak out, but now he only says what the party tells him to say.

  • However, in 1854, Lincoln returned to politics in response to the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which expressly repealed the limits on slavery's extent as determined by the Missouri Compromise.
  • Lincoln was involved in politics to promote justice and the ideas of the founders, not for personal gain. McCain does not support equal rights for all Americans.

  • Lincoln is well known for ending slavery in the United States. In 1861 – 1862, however, he made it clear that the North was fighting the war to preserve the Union, not to abolish slavery. Freeing the slaves became, in late 1862, a war measure to weaken the rebellion by destroying the economic base of its leadership class.
  • When Lincoln had to fight a war, he had sound principles. He did not fight war based on personal feelings or philosophy. Again, McCain supports endless crusades based on the mistaken ideas of a few.

  • In 1863, when Lincoln saw support for his war wavering, and people were disturbed by the draft, he knew he had to make a statement to win back the people. Hence, his decision to go to Gettysburg and urge the Union to highly resolve that the dead there "shall not have died in vain" was Lincoln's way of saying that if the Copperhead peace democrats get their way, then the men who there gave the "last full measure of devotion" will have done so for no reason at all. In the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln was proposing this question: what would these men who died for this cause want us to do--quit now or finish the job? How the country answered this question would determine the 1864 election.
  • Public support in a time of war is always hard to maintain in the face of high casualties. And, we’ve heard Bush say that the soldiers who’ve died in Iraq will not die in vain. And that giving into calls for peace would make the whole effort in vain. So what’s the difference? Well, for starters, Lincoln was fighting a war to protect the integrity of American, and it had a clear definition of success: The southern states return to the United States of America. In Bush’s war and with McCain’s support, the Global War on Terrorism has become a quagmire with no clear goals or definition of success. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, so all those that have died have died in vain because Bush and McCain have chosen not to pursue the real terrorists who harmed America.

  • Even before the war ended, Lincoln was actively pursuing a reconstruction strategy. Determined to find a course that would reunite the nation and not alienate the South, Lincoln urged that speedy elections under generous terms be held throughout the war in areas behind Union lines. His Amnesty Proclamation of December 8, 1863, offered pardons to those who had not held a Confederate civil office, had not mistreated Union prisoners, and would sign an oath of allegiance.
  • Lincoln understands that a solid strategy needs to be in place if the region is going to rebuild. He did not tear down the system of government and replace it with partisans. He allowed the people to continue to govern themselves. McCain has supported the complete destruction of Iraq and the installation of Bush partisans, which has not helped the reconstruction effort.

  • Besides the war, Lincoln took a hands-off approach to legislation, where he allowed Congress to write the legislation and he vetoed only those bills that threatened his war powers. Thus, he signed the Homestead Act in 1862, making millions of acres of government-held land in the West available for purchase at very low cost. The Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act, also signed in 1862, provided government grants for agricultural universities in each state. The Pacific Railway Acts of 1862 and 1864 granted federal support for the construction of the United States' First Transcontinental Railroad, which was completed in 1869. Other important legislation involved economic matters, including the first income tax and higher tariffs. Also included was the creation of the system of national banks by the National Banking Acts of 1863, 1864, and 1865, which allowed the creation of a strong national financial system. Congress created and Lincoln approved the Department of Agriculture in 1862, although that institution would not become a Cabinet-level department until 1889.
  • In his legislation, Lincoln showed that he supported a strong government. He supported the first income tax and higher tariffs. I don’t know if McCain could be more of a polar opposite on this issue. Lincoln also supported government grants for education, and large federal projects for infrastructure. McCain, like Bush, supports only private, for-profit industry. Additionally, Lincoln supported a growing federal government, but supported by the higher taxes and tariffs. This is where I believe McCain is more like Reagan; he says he supports small government, so he reduces taxes, but continues to expand the federal government without the necessary funds. Lastly, Lincoln did not meddle in legislative affairs or veto based on his personal beliefs. McCain has promised more Bush leadership: Approve only what he personally believes in, make no compromises or attempts to see an issue from the majority’s point of view. From what McCain has promised, he could not be more opposed to Lincoln’s governing style.

  • Lincoln largely relied on the Calvinistic "doctrine of necessity" and not organized religion to guide his beliefs. Lincoln’s religious skepticism was fueled by his exposure to the ideas of the Lockean Enlightenment and classical liberalism, especially economic liberalism. Consistent with the common practice of the Whig party, Lincoln would often use the Declaration of Independence as the philosophical and moral expression of these two philosophies.
  • This may be the most important point because it talks to governing and leadership style. Lately, the Republicans have come to be dominated by the Christian Fundamentalists, but this was not what the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln intended. Lincoln based his beliefs on Enlightenment-era philosophies, not religion. The Declaration of Independence was his guiding document. Lincoln believed that America’s destiny was to be shaped by the principles of its founding, not by the Bible. McCain has promised to turn this nation over to the Christian Extremists, which is not something Lincoln would ever do.

    From these ideas, I can only conclude that Lincoln was a man of great principle. He believed in truth, justice, and enlightenment. When he had to fight, he did it judiciously, and based in solid principle. When he led America, he thought about what was best for the nation, not just for his supporters. Lincoln guided this nation through a time of great turmoil, and while he was not perfect, he was thoughtful. McCain promises to be none of these. McCain is a war monger who will continue the harmful, un-Constitutional policies of President Bush and the Christian extremists. If any candidate in this race is like Abraham Lincoln, it is Barack Obama, which these highlights make very clear. McCain should be ashamed for trying to degrade the memory of a good president for his own political gain!

    Coming soon: Is McCain a Roosevelt “Rough Rider?”

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