Earlier today streiff (1) rather correctly referred to our current excuse for a Commander-in-Chief as “dishonest and sophomoric” and, with just an additional 57 words in his first paragraph, went a long way towards clarifying the two word term that was still budding in my mind almost six years ago: See Sophomoric Wilsonianism and the Soul of Growing Discontent. (2)
While I personally found that very interesting, THAT is a very poor tone on which to start off this Presidents’ Day. So I will try to introduce a few items of discussion here that are a little richer in Presidential character that just may improve my holiday spirits and, not to mention, push my own agendas…
In an odd twist, I will turn to Hollywood and the movie version of A. Lincoln for the first. While I generally enjoyed the film as a whole, this one scene as the movie President talks to his cabinet is worth much more than the price of admission:
I decided that the Constitution gives me war powers, but no one knows just exactly what those powers are. Some say they don’t exist. I don’t know. I decided I needed them to exist to uphold my oath to protect the Constitution, which I decided meant that I could take the rebels’ slaves from `em as property confiscated in war. That might recommend to suspicion that I agree with the rebs that their slaves are property in the first place. Of course I don’t, never have, I’m glad to see any man free, and if calling a man property, or war contraband, does the trick… Why I caught at the opportunity. Now here’s where it gets truly slippery. I use the law allowing for the seizure of property in a war knowing it applies only to the property of governments and citizens of belligerent nations. But the South ain’t a nation, that’s why I can’t negotiate with ’em. So if in fact the Negroes are property according to law, have I the right to take the rebels’ property from `em, if I insist they’re rebels only, and not citizens of a belligerent country? And slipperier still: I maintain it ain’t our actual Southern states in rebellion, but only the rebels living in those states, the laws of which states remain in force. The laws of which states remain in force. That means, that since it’s states’ laws that determine whether Negroes can be sold as slaves, as property – the Federal government doesn’t have a say in that, least not yet – then Negroes in those states are slaves, hence property, hence my war powers allow me to confiscate `em as such. So I confiscated `em. But if I’m a respecter of states’ laws, how then can I legally free `em with my Proclamation, as I done, unless I’m cancelling states’ laws? I felt the war demanded it; my oath demanded it; I felt right with myself; and I hoped it was legal to do it, I’m hoping still.
Two years ago I proclaimed these people emancipated – “then, thenceforward and forever free.” But let’s say the courts decide I had no authority to do it. They might well decide that. Say there’s no amendment abolishing slavery. Say it’s after the war, and I can no longer use my war powers to just ignore the courts’ decisions, like I sometimes felt I had to do. Might those people I freed be ordered back into slavery? That’s why I’d like to get the Thirteenth Amendment through the House, and on its way to ratification by the states, wrap the whole slavery thing up, forever and aye. As soon as I’m able. Now. End of this month. And I’d like you to stand behind me. Like my cabinet’s most always done. (3)
Realizing that it may very well ruin the effect, I think I would like to see a really good logic diagram depiction of that lecture. No matter how real or not the dialog is, the person and situation involved really were awesome, especially compared to the childish round of high-fives that surely happened after an overnight session resulted in the “I have a phone and a pen.” line.
My second offering will focus on a man (a real man) who will never make anyone’s top President’s list (except mine) but who, along with G. Washington and A. Lincoln, is clearly on the top three list of most important Americans of all time. I’ve referenced this scene before (4) as an example of the leadership…winning leadership…of U. S. Grant (as opposed to the leading-from-behind variety of more modern types):
“Saturday, May 7, 1864, dawned cloudy and overcast. A slow drizzle moved in and an uneasy quiet settled over the battlefield. … Unlike his Confederate counterpart, the average Union soldier thought his side had been whipped. … Almost to a man the troops assumed the next order they received would be to withdraw and recross the Rapidan, probably to undergo yet another reorganization under yet another commander who would eventually lead them into another battle that would end in another retreat. That was the all-too-familiar pattern of the Army of the Potomac when it faced Robert E. Lee in Virginia.”
“That afternoon when the artillery limbered up and moved out, the troops believed their suspicions had been confirmed. … To their astonishment the columns headed south. They were not marching back across the Rapidan but toward Richmond and the tiny hamlet of Spotsylvania Court House, an important road intersection twelve miles southeast of the Wilderness, in open country and directly athwart Lee’s line of communication.”
“For the troops of the Army of the Potomac, the realization they were moving south was a tonic like no other. Packs became lighter, the pace quickened, and the buzz of excitement spread down the marching columns.” (5)
A tonic like no other*. A man and leader like very few others.
Proud Redstate Member since April 2006…?
* This “tonic like no other” effect would be a really good lesson for M. McConnell and the ongoing DHS budget hubbub if I were even remotely convinced that his definition of winning was closer to mine than to B. Obama’s. But, after Mississippi 2014, that just isn’t the case. So, never mind.
(5) Grant by Jean Edward Smith, Pages 337-338