Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Presidents Day

My President's Day post is a day late, my apologies. This holiday honors George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Despite my respect and admiration for our first President, today's post will focus and Lincoln. Many consider Lincoln our nation's greatest President. While I don't agree with that, I will say as I've said before that Lincoln had to endure history's most difficult presidency. I will also say as I've said before that our current President has endured history's second most difficult presidency. And that begins some interesting parallels between Bush and Lincoln.

My problem with Lincoln is that he overstepped his Constitutional authority. He basically forced the citizens of 13 states to be part of America under the sword. I have a problem with that. I am not a confederate nor do I condone secession, but I think secession is legal. I think that anyone has the right to surrender their citizenship in this country without fear of military reprisal. Lincoln disagreed and because of this our nation suffered a great deal, and in many ways still suffers today.

However, despite my disagreement with Lincoln I am still forced to acknowledge that what he did was in the end best for America. Had the Union remain divided, history would have been dramatically different. One shudders to think of tyrants like Hitler and Stalin and how they would have fared while facing a divided America. This country rose to greatness as one nation, north and south, that neither would have achieved without the other. Not only this, but Lincoln DID end slavery in America, albeit his methods may have been questionable, he still ended this abomination nonetheless.

Yes, Lincoln stood in violation of the Constitution. Yes he overstepped his powers. But in the end it was best for America. Which brings me to George Bush. How many out there feel that Bush has over stepped his authority? And if you do, how do you feel about Abraham Lincoln? Hmmm.

Lincoln no doubt endured his share of hate on both sides of the mason-dixon line. He wasn't exactly the most popular of Presidents during his time. Much of Europe disagreed with his pseudo-tyranny against his own people. Northerners were tired of war and wanted it ended quickly. But history vindicated Lincoln.

Today, President Bush wages a war despite the disapproval of Europe, the disagreement of many of his citizens, and rampant claims that he is violating the Constitution. What will history teach us of him?


Anonymous said...

snake hunter sez,

Dr. John,

If I may, I'll add a short addendum
to your thesis.

a) The Civil War took 600,000 lives
in 5 years! That's more than WWII losses. This one confronts Global Jihad, and the 'Hate Bush' Appeasers that want us 'Out of Iraq
Regardless of Consequence', and are as rabid as any mob can become.

b) Hating Bush/Cheney is a skillfully crafted campaign, highly
organized by several very wealthy
Groups and Peace Foundations, lead
by Open Society Institute, with its vocal MoveOnDot Org. Abe Lincoln was indeed hated; but it was not a Manufactured, High-Tech Hate-filled, Media-driven Monster that we see today.

How future historians will treat the Bush/Cheney legasy will be determined by who finally triumphs in this struggle with Iran/Saudi Theocracy, don't you think? reb

Allisoni Balloni said...

I don't think that you can compare Lincoln and Bush without taking a serious look at the contexts of each. Granted, the constitution is still the same, but we are facing much different matters in much different times. Lincoln united America, while I think it is hard to argue that Bush has divided his own people and staked them against one another. Our society is so fragmented now because of the war, because of our fight for privacy, as well as our struggle to establish our rights to healthcare and equal rights for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation.

I just don't think that the two situations are similar. Only time and history books will tell, but as of now I see nothing positive that has resulted from this presidency.

Allisoni Balloni said...

excuse the type...NOT hard to argue*

Dan Trabue said...

My hunch, for what it's worth, is that Bush will go down in history as one of our worst presidents.

And that is not merely a partisan view.

Much to my dismay, it appears that Reagan (whose policies I loathed and think of personally as one of our worst presidents) will go down in history in a relatively positive light. I AM able to differentiate between presidents I don't like (Reagan, Clinton, Bush) and presidents that will be viewed positively by history (Reagan, Clinton - unlikely, but certainly NOT Bush).

That would be my guess. Time will tell.

Anonymous said...

Time to disagree w/ both the Doctor and Dan, and of course reb on his one note song.

Doctor, if you are going to take the position that secession is legal, then I think it is incumbent upon you proffer an explanation supporting its legality.

Whereas you are correct that any citizen has the right renounce his or citizenship, you are incorrect if you believe that any citizen can do so and claim lands which are part of the sovereign United States. The seizure of such property, and I include all property whether government owned or priviately owned, is illegal.


It is undeniable that Ronald Reagan was a very popular president. The exercise in which I like to engage is to write the two or three paragraphs that will appear in a HS history text in 50 or 60 years. Those who admire Mr. Reagan tend to overstate his achievements. He did not single handedly bring doen the USSR nor did he tear down the Berlin Wall w/ his bare hands. At best, he hastened those events by months or perhaps a few years.

In 50 years, anyone who was 15 years or older when Reagan was elected will be dead. Mr. Reagan's popularity will die w/his admirers. Th ehistory texts will note that he was popular.

When you examine the accomplishments of his presidency in a historical context, I think they will be pretty minor. I think his greatest accomlishments were bringing inflation under control and appointing the first woman SC justice. The success of his other economic policies were more dubious. The failure to regulate the S&L industry was a disaster and he left office leaving the country w/ massive deficits that took 8 years of unprecedented economic growth during the 1990's to erase.

Beirut and Grenada cannot be hailed as overwhelming foreign policy successes. Nor can we be proud of Iran contra.

So once you divorce his charisma and personal popularity from the history, his presidency is much less impressive.


Just keep believing that George W. Bush's lack of popularity is a result of George Soros rather than Mr. Bush's policies. While you are at it, keep believing in the Tooth Fairy; the monster under your bed, and the Easter Bunny.

There are two essential problems w/ your thesis. The first is that it presupposes that most Americans can be manipulated and led down the garden path. To quote Mr. Lincoln: "If you once forfeit the confidence of your felllow citizens, you can never regain their respect and esteem. It is true you can fool all of the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all of the time; but you can't fool all of ther people all of he time."

This entire quote applies to Mr. Bush and the more well known portion to Mr. Soros.

The other problem w/ your thesis is that it does not account for people like me who recognized the failures of Mr. Bush's policies as he announced them.


The Loop Garoo Kid

Dan Trabue said...

I hope you're correct, Loop (about Reagan). I'd hate for him to be given credit that I for one don't think he deserves and I WOULD very much like for him to be remembered for the crimes and negative policies he implemented...

John Washburn said...

Allisoni, be careful not to confuse preserving the union with uniting the country. Lincoln preserved the Union, he did not unite the country. In fact, his determination to use military might left wounds that have still not healed. There is still a lot of bitterness in the south over it, and I can say this as a son of the south born and raised in Mississippi. Lincoln's armies conquered and destroyed these states with little mercy. The brutality of it is jaw-dropping. Homes were burned, women were brutalized, citizens were starved, entire cities were left in ruin. This is no way to treat "your own people". Lincoln was despised by many on both sides of the war because of this, and still is. Even some northerners opposed the war on legality issues and felt the southern states should be allowed to go peacefully, and these sentiments were stronger early in the war. Bush may have sparked a lot of disagreement, but he isn't invading his own country and burning people's homes down. Lincoln hardly united. He preserved the union through sheer conquest, turning the southern states into occupied US territory. And I could argue that such conquest wasn't necessary, but that's another discussion.

Loop, we have another fundamental disagreement. You claim that all US land is the property of the United States. I don't think that's Constitutional. Many states were sovereignly governed prior to voluntarily joining the Union, and this WAS voluntary. We're not talking about property that was annexed by the federal government. Our country's name even implies this. A fundamental principle of our founding was federalism, and this is enshrined in the ever-ignored 10th Amendment. The States have rights, and their membership in this union is voluntary. The people are allowed to govern themselves and if the citizens of a state opt to terminate their statehood in this nation, then I certainly feel they have that right. I am not aware of any law that prohibits it, but I am well aware of the 10th Amendment. Regardless, the President does not have a Constitutional right to invade his own country, seize property and enforce laws that the people don't consent to. That's bordering on tyranny, and it's a line that Lincoln flirted with, if not blatantly crossed.

Anonymous said...


The 10th Amendment merely states: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states. repectively, or to the people.

Suppose I owned a section of land in CO. Do you think it would be lawful for me secede from the United Staes and declare my own country. I rather think not.

Recall the first three words of the Constitution: "We the people..." Not "We, the states..."

Recall the beginning of the Civil War. On April 12, 1961, Confederate forces attacked the military installation at Ft. Sumpter, SC.

I am not going to argue that the Civil War was not brutal or deadly.

But you have failed to mention the primary cause of that war and what was, and in some parts of the world remains, the defining issue of civilization. Should one human being be allowed to own another?


The Loop Garoo Kid

John Washburn said...

Loop, the people have the right to govern themselves. We The People indeed! And if the people of a given state choose to declare their independence, I have yet to find anything in the Constitution saying they don't have that right. If you believe otherwise then you must also believe that America's very birth was illegal and that we are not a valid, sovereign nation. I take it you would have been a loyalist in 1776.

And I know what the high school history books say, but the Civil War was NOT faught over slavery. Less than 8% of the southern population owned slaves, yet nearly 400,000 southerners gave their lives for the cause. They didn't die so the rich plantation owners could keep their slaves. If it was about slavery, the south would have never been able to field an army, which was predominantly made of peasants and share-croppers, hardly the type to give a damn about slavery on the plantation. The war was faught for the same reason our own Revolution was faught, states rights and no taxation without representation.

Many southerners despised slavery, including Robert Lee himself, who forbade his officers from even discussing it and ordered any and all captured slaves to be given proper quarter and treated with dignity and respect.

And for Sumter, there is also a very different story there. You may be surprised at the actual sequence of events that led South Caroline to "start the war".

Maybe I'll post on it some day.

Anonymous said...


Briefly: The "states rights" argument is a dog that won't hunt. Your statistics re the ownership of slaves is correct. Your history, alas, is revisionist. Had slavery not existed, no states would have seceded and the Civil War would not have been fought.

Please recall who was running the state governments of southern states at the time. It wasn't the guys who made up the bulk of the Confederate forces.

Of course the birth of this nation was illegal, in the most literal sense. The Declaration of Independence was an act of treason against the British crown. The Declaration of Independence was revolutionary, in many ways, not the least of which was that it was a revolt against the British crown.

Of course, we won so we got to "write" the history. I do not know why you think I would have been a loyalist in 1776, except I recognize that statement as being another not very well thought out reactionary one of the sort that you express from time to time.

I will say that had the Confederacy succeeded, one could make a much better argument for the legality of its cause.

This, of course, brings up a current topic, that of Kosovo. Remember Gavril Princip? Only this time, it is Vlad Putin, running the superpower that may come to aid of its Orthodox bretheren.


The Loop Garoo Kid

John Washburn said...

"Had slavery not existed, no states would have seceded and the Civil War would not have been fought."

This is simply not true. Slavery may have been an issue for some, but they were the minority. Again, the confederacy would have NEVER been able to field an army if it were all about slavery. Read about the Morrill Tariff, a major player in the 'no taxation without representation' argument.

Slavery was a secondary issue that Lincoln used to motivate his people to continue an unpopular war. This, of course, isn't what's taught in the mainstream.

As you said, the victors are the ones who get to write history.

Anonymous said...


I read about the Morrill Tariff. I think your version of the history of this country is extremely revisionistic. The Civil War was not about tarrifs on simported goods, although the tarriff prompted some Brits to support the South. It wasn't about state's rights except to extent that such rights included the right to own other human beings as if they were chattels.

The Civil War was about slavery. If, a son of the old South, you wish to view Lincoln as a monster, I am basically okay w/ that although I think it foolish and counterproductive.

If, however, you promote a theory regarding the cause of tghe Civil War that is "no taxation without representation" based you are not only willfully ignoring history but also you are being an apologist for an institution that you would be the first to recognize as an abomination.


The Loop Garoo Kid

John Washburn said...

Loop, its not revisionist. It's simply the truth about what happened. I was taught the same thing, that the civil war was all about slavery. But it didn't make sense to me. Why would so many die for slavery? Why would the south endure 5 years of utter destruction, watch their homes and cities burn down, their armies get crushed, all for something that <8% of the population wanted? So what if the slave-owners had the power, they didn't have the power to force the people to fight.

So I started researching. I began reading books that weren't necessarily part of the board-approved curriculum. Some of the authors were southerners, some northerners. And the basic conclusion was that slavery may have been an issue for a minority of southerners, but it wasn't THE reason for secession and war.

I learned that the nation was divided deeply, not between slave and free as much as between agricultural and industrial states. I learned that at the time the agricultural states were paying roughly 80-90% of the federal budget while being outvoted and outnumbered in BOTH houses of Congress by the industrial states. They had no hope, no chance to have any favorable legislation passed for their states. I learned that Jefferson Davis had begun developing a plan with his cabinet that would free the slaves over a 10 year period, thus slowly acclimating society rather than flooding the job market without so many workers. Davis though that was the best way and the plan was in the works. You believe that as this was happening the south was willing to lose everything to keep their slaves.

James Longstreet said at Gettysburg that we should have freed the slaves, then fired on Ft Sumter. In his biography, while talking about the Army of Northern Virginia, Lee said that his biggest fear is that history would look at them as an army that marched for slavery and not the cause they faught for.

During the Sumter seige, Davis sent numeous emissaries to Lincoln seeking a peaceful solution and Lincoln refused to see any of them.

I also learned about the brutality of the war. It simply makes no sense that the southern people would fight that hard and endure that much suffering so that the wealthy 8% can have their slaves. What did make sense was that the war was faught for the same reason as the American Revolution. The very same states faught the crown for independence less than 100 years prior, and felt that their rights were being trampled by Washington politicians just as much as they were by British royalty.

The fact is that the war was brutal and the thought of American soldiers and generals and an American president doing that to their own citizens is hard to swallow. It's even harder to swallow if the war is faught over tariff revenue, states rights and congressional representation. However, slavery is a noble cause and making the war about that makes all that brutality a little easier to accept. THAT's what's been revised about history. Burning down the south is monsterish if its done to preserve federal revenue, not so much if its done to free slaves. People like to think of the Union army as this grand army marching to free other people. That's fine, but it simply isn't true. It was an army of conquest.

The reason I argue this point so hard is because the confederate soldiers faught bravely and died for a noble cause. They exemplified American courage. I don't want them remembered for a cause they didn't fight for. I don't want their memory dishonored. Again, in the end America was better for it, but those soldiers deserved to be remembered for what they TRULY faught and died for.

Anonymous said...


It is revisionist. Firstly, I need the reference as to the 8%. Wikipedia states that 1/3 or all southerners were slaves as opposed to 1% of the northern population. The % of whites living in families that owned slaves in the lower south was 36.7%; 25.3% in the upper south; and 15.9% in the border states that fought mostly for the Union.

Demographics in the form of internal and external immigration favored the north w/ respect to growth of population, politically weakening southern slavery states which were facing becoming a permanent minority in the House of Representatives. This caused southern states to fear that slavery would become extinct

Alexander Stephens, the Vice President of the Confederacy stated slavery "was the cornerstone" of the Confederacy."

There was a reason why SC was the first state to secede.

To claim that slavery was not the primary cause of the Civil War is simply an act of revisionist denial. It is up there w/ Holocaust denial.

I realize that it is possible to examine history and arrive at alternate theories but to eschew the obvious in unacceptable.

It is as if there are two men arguing on top of a 10 story building. One draws a 357 magnum and blows out the other's brains after which the dead man falls off the building. Your position is: "The fall killed him."


The Loop Garoo Kid