On the President and Gettysburg

150 years ago today, Abraham Lincoln uttered 272 remarkable words on the battlefield at Gettysburg.It remains one of the most notable speeches ever given by an American President. Lincoln, in his speech, said, “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here.” Giving Lincoln’s eulogy on June 1, 1865, Senator Charles Sumner said, “The world noted at once what he said, and will never cease to remember it. The battle itself was less important than the speech.”Back in November 2008, Newsweek profiled me. It was the first major profile ever done of me. I framed it of course. The issue came out November 24, 2008. The cover story in that issue was “Obama’s Lincoln.” The subtitle was “The Strength of Humility: Channelling the 16th President.” A drawing of Abraham Lincoln loomed large on the page over a small Barack Obama. Lincoln, joined to Obama, served as Obama’s shadow.Throughout President Obama’s time in the Senate, on the campaign trail for President, and into his Presidency, he and his advisors have worked overtime tying his legacy to that of Abraham Lincoln. He is an heir of Lincoln’s legacy as the first black President.So it is well noted today that, on the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, the current President of the United States, in whose house resides the last known copy of the speech written in Lincoln’s hand, could not be bothered to show up at Gettysburg.Dan Pfeiffer, a senior advisor to the President, claims he could not go to Gettysburg because of a scheduling conflict. That conflict turned out to be Obama is personally fixing the Obamacare website. I kid you not.The invitation to Gettysburg was made months ago — if not a year ago. But the President’s advisor on twitter says saving the Democratic Party is more important. Again, I kid you not.In reading the Gettysburg Address for documentary film maker Ken Burns, President Obama left out the words “under God” in the line “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.” Perhaps he is done trying to keep up appearances. Perhaps he is just done trying. He’s accountable to no voters now and has never shown any really allegiance to other Democrats struggling for re-election. So why bother.The President who wrapped himself in Lincoln’s legacy could not be bothered to adjust his schedule to honor the day in Gettysburg. But let’s be honest. Had he, he would have been physically incapable of speaking just 272 words. Likewise, he would not have been able to use just a piece of paper. He’d have to use a whole teleprompter. Mr. Obama remains small in the shadow of Abraham Lincoln — a divider in a land Lincoln fought to keep united. It is just as well he did not go.



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