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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Lincoln and Obama

On Meet the Press today, David Gregory had this exchange with the president:
GREGORY: Is this your Lincoln moment?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, no. Look, A, I never compare myself to Lincoln and, B, obviously the magnitude of the issues are quite different from the Civil War and slavery. 
It is quite true that the president has never directly said, "I am like Lincoln." But a number of his comments over the years have suggested or invited such comparisons.

In 2005, he wrote:
In my first race for Congress, I had my head handed to me. So when I, a black man with a funny name, born in Hawaii of a father from Kenya and a mother from Kansas, announced my candidacy for the U.S. Senate, it was hard to imagine a less likely scenario than that I would win--except, perhaps, for the one that allowed a child born in the backwoods of Kentucky with less than a year of formal education to end up as Illinois' greatest citizen and our nation's greatest President.
In Lincoln's rise from poverty, his ultimate mastery of language and law, his capacity to overcome personal loss and remain determined in the face of repeated defeat--in all this, he reminded me not just of my own struggles. He also reminded me of a larger, fundamental element of American life--the enduring belief that we can constantly remake ourselves to fit our larger dreams.
Announcing his presidential candidacy in Springfield in 2007, the 6'1" lawyer and former Illinois state legislator said:  "By ourselves, this change will not happen. Divided, we are bound to fail. But the life of a tall, gangly, self-made Springfield lawyer tells us that a different future is possible."  Noting that "Springfield allowed Obama to immodestly and continuously compare himself to Lincoln," Jake Tapper reported: "Obama's allies are reminding voters that Lincoln's eight years in the state legislature and one term in the U.S. House of Representative compare rather precisely with Obama's legislative experience."

In 2010, he told the House Democratic Caucus: "I have the great pleasure of having a really nice library at the White House. And I was tooling through some of the writings of some previous Presidents, and I came upon this quote by Abraham Lincoln: `I am not bound to win, but I'm bound to be true. I'm not bound to succeed, but I'm bound to live up to what light I have.'"  (Actually, Lincoln never said any such thing.)

In a 2011 town hall meeting in Decorah, Iowa, he said:  "But when you listen to what the Federalists said about the Anti-Federalists and the names that Jefferson called Hamilton and back and forth, I mean, those guys were tough. Lincoln, they used to talk about him almost as bad as they talk about me."

In 2011, he told Sixty Minutes reporter Steve Kroft:  "As you said yourself, Steve, you know, I would put our legislative and foreign policy accomplishments in our first two years against any president — with the possible exceptions of Johnson, F.D.R., and Lincoln — just in terms of what we’ve gotten done in modern history."