Go ahead. Guess.
On Tuesday, just 65 miles from the White House, thousands will gather at the battlefield where 150 years ago the sacrifice and bloodshed and deaths of warring Americans were immortalized by the words of President Abraham Lincoln. Fifty-one thousand casualties were counted when the fighting ceased in 1863, including 8,000 deaths, a toll that Lincoln, in his Gettysburg Address, pledged the nation “can never forget.”
But among the thousands in attendance will not be President Obama. For reasons not spelled out by the White House, he is staying in Washington. Instead of going to Gettysburg, he will go to the Four Seasons Hotel to address The Wall Street Journal CEO Council’s annual meeting and talk about the economy. In his place, he has dispatched little-known Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell to the ceremonies.
Secretary of the Interior. Well, now we know who the lowest person is in the Cabinet pecking order.
I bring this one up because I just wanted to make sure that the Online Left should see this event as being proof that, in point of fact, life is not an Aaron Sorkin television show*. You can see how this could have played out in an episode, right? President in a slump, ratings going south, every hand raised against him. Then said President’s staff seizes upon the Gettysburg speech as a game changer; they convince their boss to go through with it, buck him up when it looks like he’s going to play it safe at the last second, and watch, teary-eyed, as the President speaks for three minutes on whatever universal liberal truth had Aaron Sorkin’s bowels in an uproar that week. Generic hosannas fly, angels descend from Heaven on union-supervised hoists, polls rebound with an audible “sproing.”
Riveting television. Riveting. Alas, this is the real world, and Barack Obama is not brave enough to stand where Abraham Lincoln stood and allow himself to be compared to his predecessor. As the article linked above notes, most of our Presidents have – it’s diagnostic that, say, Bill Clinton begged off, too – fully aware that they were not going to be able to outshine a man who is by now a mythological figure**. Most Presidents got over it, too. But Barack Obama has tried to make himself a mythological figure in the flesh – and the last thing that a man pretending to be a myth ever wants to do is to invite too-honest a comparison with the real thing.
Moe Lane (crosspost)
PS: Just in case the President’s never actually read the speech:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
*I say this while still being offended that they canceled Sports Night. I loved that one.
**”Now he belongs to the ages.” That wasn’t an epitaph: it was a prediction.