From time to time someone will liken President Bush to Abraham Lincoln. Every time I hear it happen, I’m sure my face betrays my shock. I cannot fathom how anyone could make the comparison.
Lincoln had a most difficult task of insuring that the nation did not dissolve into separate halves. Bush faces a war on terrorism, committed by Osama Bin Laden, which has been overlooked so that America could invade Iraq.
But how Lincoln reacted to his situation tells us much about how Bush could better handle his.
Lincoln was able to take competing viewpoints and bridge the differences. His own party had very deep divisions between the radicals who wanted a very strident effort to end slavery at once, and moderate elements that wished to find a more select and cautious series of steps to achieve mostly the same result. At the same time, Lincoln hoped not to undermine those who were in the Democratic camp but were not totally opposed to his ideas.
Today the nation is highly divided over the war, how the evidence was gathered and presented to take our country into battle, and how the continued rationale for war is taking us nowhere.
Lincoln understood that to do the job as Chief Executive he needed to mire himself firmly in the daily operations of the war. He digested information and became self-schooled in military matters even though he (like Bush) had limited military experience. It has been reported in many books how Lincoln went to the War Department and would stretch back in a chair and read memos from his generals and military personnel via the telegraph. He had a desire to understand the war strategy so as to be a better war President.
There is little evidence that Bush prides himself at being highly adept at any topic, and no one has ever suggested he reads volumes of information so as to convince the public he has the mental resources to make valid decisions.
Lincoln understood that when the campaign to win the war was not succeeding it was time to change strategies and commanders. Many a general and military commander was sent packing after not meeting the needs of a winning northern campaign to bring the Confederacy back into the Union.
There has been an unwillingness to admit mistakes with the Iraq war even though failures have presented themselves at every turn. From too few military personnel sent to control Iraq after the downfall of the Iraqi government, to the reluctance to get international players involved in Iraq after Bush stated “mission accomplished,” many things show a lack of leadership and insight.
Finally, Lincoln understood the weight of words required to convince a war-weary public that the effort needed to continue was vital. He well understood that convictions without oratory in time of national trauma results in a leader without a nation of followers.
Bush has many obstacles to contend with, but a failed war strategy is at the heart of all his current woes. Not addressing how the war failed will mean he cannot reclaim his position in the polls, and more importantly be capable of resolving the other matters that face his Administration.
I think Bush would be better off if he took a volume or two about Lincoln to bed, read them, and then talked to the country in a national address in a week.