Barack Obama: Not Lincoln After All

In heady aftermath of the 2008 election, Barack Obama’s many media admirers loved to paint the newly elected Democrat as the second coming of Abraham Lincoln. A November 2008 Newsweek article titled “Obama’s Lincoln” was only-slightly more nauseating than most, when it proclaimed:

It is the season to compare Barack Obama to Abraham Lincoln. Two thin men from rude beginnings, relatively new to Washington but wise to the world, bring the nation together to face a crisis. Both are superb rhetoricians, both geniuses at stagecraft and timing....

Obama himself cultivated and encouraged such comparisons, launching his presidential campaign from Springfield, Illinois, where he solemnly intoned:

 [I]n the shadow of the Old State Capitol, where Lincoln once called on a divided house to stand together…I stand before you today to announce my candidacy for President of the United States.

In fact, the two men could not be more different -- in character temperament and governing philosophy. Take, for example, their respective views of America itself.  At a 2009 press conference, Obama addressed the idea of American exceptionalism:  “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” In other words, not at all.

Compare that with Lincoln’s oft-expressed and deep appreciation for our nation’s unique character and power. In one of his first public addresses in 1838, Lincoln said:

We [Americans] find ourselves in the peaceful possession of the fairest portion of the earth as regards extent of territory, fertility of soil, and salubrity of climate. We find ourselves under the government of a system of political institutions conducing more essentially to the ends of civil and religious liberty than any of which the history of former times tells us….

Years later, as president presiding over a bloody war, Lincoln would call America “the last, best hope of earth” as he implored his fellow citizens to help him save it.