In the Arena

Lincoln Lessons

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Seems everyone in the political world was talking about Spielberg’s splendid Lincoln this weekend. It turns out to be a movie about a living, breathing, horse-trading, occasionally mendacious genius of a politician. It resurrects the noble greasiness of politics at an incredibly appropriate moment: we’re in desperate need of some inspired horse-trading in Washington over the budget and other issues.

And so I think Greg Sargent gets it a bit wrong when he writes that David Brooks, Al Hunt and other take the movie as a celebration of “compromise.” Lincoln doesn’t compromise his principles to win passage of the 13th Amendment. He compromises his morals, a little. He trades jobs for votes. He pulls a Clinton–lawyering the truth–over the question of whether he’s about to commence negotiations with a rebel delegation. That’s the miracle of Lincoln. He practiced the high art of moving history forward via patronage and patronization. Indeed, in a democracy, it is the highest art, the only way great deeds are done. I’ll have more to say about our current need for Lincolnian politics in my print column this week.

34 comments
ahandout
ahandout

Where do you get the word "greasiness" Klein?  Are you referring to greasers?  Not very PC of you JK.  Be careful, you will loose your pass.

stephengreen732
stephengreen732

Lincoln himself could not imagine his impact on America and it future. Yet he bore a heavy burden bravely, and he kept his morals, intact, despite being a politician.. 

kathy
kathy

I was taken with what Al Sharpton had to say about the movie on Meet The Press this Sunday, about the difference in the role of advocacy and governing - that as an advocate he can push and push and doesn't have to compromise, but those who are governing do need to.

Fla4Me
Fla4Me

I realize the movie is not the point of this but how about Daniel Day-Lewis for best actor.....

Marky_D_Sodd
Marky_D_Sodd

Long before the mythical jesus was born, the world had a saviour: Mithras.  

In order to make the new christer cult palatable, the early church had to suppress Mithras, and in doing so stole elements of his legend.  Mithras:

- was born on December 25, of a virgin.

- was god made man.

- performed miracles

- raised the dead

- healed the sick

-was murdered, died and was buried

-he rose from the dead

- he bodily ascended into heaven

etc., etc.

(Does any of this sound familiar?)

Now that the Poop (the one in Rome, not the REAL Pope in Alexandria) has publicly admitted that the birthdate stolen from Mithras (Dec. 25) is not the "real" birthdate of the mythical christ, what are we to do with all those mid-winter holidays, closed schools, midnight shopping madness events, eggnog, etc.?

Fortunately for us, there WAS a real person born on December 25 -- Isaac Newton.

So, in the spirit of the approaching season, and acknowledging yet another christ-cult lie, I would like to be the first to wish each and everyone a MERRY NEWTONMAS!

Sue_N
Sue_N

I'm not sure the analogy fits. In trying to pass the 13th Amendment, Lincoln was working against not only an opposition party, but public opinion; the abolition of slavery – and the granting of rights that would necessarily follow – wasn't that popular with most Americans at the time.

However, in dealing with the Fiscal Curb/Gradual Incline/Bump in the Road, Obama definitely has public opinion (and time) on his side. He doesn't have to give away a damn thing. All he and the Dems have to do is let all the tax cuts expire and then watch as House Republicans scramble to stop the howling from their contituents.

Lincoln was trying to force the nation to do the right thing against its own inclinations. Obama just needs to let the GOPers hang themselves with their own rope.

tonyt
tonyt

One wonders as well, whether the current president can teach a few lessons to Lincoln. The media seldom gets the underlying achievements of the President. The media does not really focus on the actual.

kbanginmotown
kbanginmotown

Note to High-Sheriffs: Despite LiveFyre attracting hoards of locusts, the comment counts for many post-election threads have been dismal. 

Couple this with virtual non-involvement of the Swampland Reporters since AMC and KT's departure, and you've got a recipe for NewsweekFAIL-redeux!

::shakes head::

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

Yes, preserving the union and ending slavery are almost exactly like making construction workers and firefighters work until age 70. Let's hope Obama and the Democrats take the right lesson and don't compromise on their principles.

fitty_three
fitty_three

Take this to heart when your peers expound on their favorite theories about why even black Americans won't touch the GOP.

Lotsa work, Joe. You are better than most GOPers I've seen in the last 40 years, so get a shovel, and above all, don't be afraid to dig...

TyPollard
TyPollard

I haven't seen Lincoln yet but I did see Sky Fall. 

The lesson I learned is that evil super villains like toying with their prisoners instead of offing them while they still can.

Also, drawing deep lessons from movies is less important than looking at evidence and history and listening to experts and judging their arguments.

outsider
outsider

Unfortunately those in congress don't measure up to Lincoln. 

And despite attempts by the WH to reach out - you cannot get around the fact that the Repubs met, and agreed to oppose everything Obama said, including the sky being blue. 

And they were rewarded in 2010 for the obstruction; and they didn't seem to learn the lesson of this year, if what McConnell and Boehner have said thus far.  

nhautamaki
nhautamaki

@Sue_N 

Unfortunately, the Republicans still have the power to ruin the country with the debt ceiling, so even if Obama and the Dems try to play it cool and just let Bush's tax cuts expire (with the idea of proposing their own cuts on the bottom 98%) the Republicans can simply threaten to refuse to raise the debt ceiling.  Unless the Dems control the white house and have a super majority in both houses of congress, the Repubs can and will still get their way on basically everything.  The system is broken; the idea of compromise only works when one side isn't so willing to play chicken up and until they drive right over the cliff, and happily convince their base to blame the other side all the way down.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@Sue_N 

A good President is one that will make the decisions that need to be made for the good of the public, regardless of whether or not they see it that way at the time.  Unfortunately in our digital media age, I don't know that we'll ever see a president quite like that ever again.  There's too much dependence on popular opinion.

Sue_N
Sue_N

@tonyt That's because the actual is dull and complex and requires hard work and thought. It's just so much easier to cover the shiny and chase squirrels.

bobell
bobell

It's our own fault.  We drove away any of the loonies with election bets (Groenhagen aside), and we've all lost some interest since the election, TIME staffers included.   There's no more MMR.  The occasional drop-in rightie gets roundly trounced and leaves. What's left looks too much like an echo chamber.

Some of it may be seasonal. Who wouldn't prefer putting notches in the credit card to staring at a monitor?

I think things will pick up somewhat when fiscal-cliff negotiations start getting serious.  And we did have a 700-plus thread just a few days ago.  Maybe it's just a hibernation phase.

Yes, livefyre sucks. So did disqus. So did whatever preceded disqus.  It's a law of nature that no one's ever happy with blog-commenting software.

And I do wish KT would do at least an occasional drive-by even though she's flown the coop.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@TyPollard 

I didn't see Twilight (and I never will) but I'm sure JK above could have written a much better and sillier analogy about how werewolves (Democrats) and vampires (Republicans) can sometimes put their differences aside and fight other vampires on a field of ice that represents the fiscal cliff or something.

TyPollard
TyPollard

Note: I am not criticizing Lincoln or the movies message. Pundits have a habit of confirming their own opinions with every bit of "evidence". 

MrObvious
MrObvious

@outsider2011 

Their version of horse trading is when they get what they want despite having lost elections based on their message.

Sue_N
Sue_N

@DonQuixotic @Sue_N The immediacy of that opinion is also a huge problem. The media outlets report (or mention or speculate about) something, and the reaction is instantaneous. There's no time for reflection, for study, for anything.

I go back to the Summer of Healthcare, when the baggers were all enraged over "death panels," "socialized medicine" and so on, absolutely none of which was accurate. But once that perception was there, dynamite couldn't get rid of it. Now it's that way with Benghazi and Susan Rice. People who have absolutely no idea what they're talking about, and politicians who should know better, are reducing our politics to a public circus.

You have to wonder – could the 13th and 14th Amendments, Social Security and Medicare or the Civil Rights Act ever get passed today?

tonyt
tonyt

@Sue_N @tonyt  Exactly. The electorate has also perceived and appreciated  it. Thats why the president is back in business.

chupkar
chupkar

@bobell I have a really hard time using livefyre in mobile. Also journo posts have dropped dramatically and I really miss MMR :(

deconstructiva
deconstructiva

@bobell I don't miss the righties either, but livefyre really sucks (still wrecks havoc on certain browsers + android tablets). I wish the reporters would reply more often also - JNS tries, though alas, KT doesn't reply directly as often at WaPo or on twitter as she used to here. Guess being busy has its price.

kbanginmotown
kbanginmotown

@bobell No sooner do I rant about sleepy posts....Aaaaand...I'll take"Grover Norquist" for 250 comments, Alex!

And, once, again, a flood of one-time commenters who swoop in to put in their 2¢ and are never heard from again...

kbanginmotown
kbanginmotown

@bobell I don't mind that the loonies have gone. 

I guess I'd like to see more nuanced policy discussion within the progressive spectrum that does not sound like an echo chamber. (Most Swampland regulars are generally left of center, which still leaves a lot of ground to cover when discussing health care reform, tax reform and, as you suggest, what form the fiscal-cliff avoidance agreement should take.) Sadly, we've yet to see a serious conservative at this blog.

re: MMRs. You, grape, and foggy (and others?) have often chimed in with links to under reported stories. Those are fun. You're right, there's definitely post-election burnout right now. But we shouldn't have to do TIME's work for them.

fitty_three
fitty_three

@bobell  

i agree with this, but what I hope for is that the crazy locusts become extinct and are replaced by real conservatives who want intelligent discussion.  There actually is a time and a place for everything.

I'm not going to miss the nuts.  It's the thinking conservatives whose participation we need anyway.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@bobell 

Really, wtf happened to the MMR?  I'm sure everyone enjoyed those, who made the decision to stop them?

reallife
reallife

what? the media is talking about Benghazi? really? where? 

outsider
outsider

No. The country is broken.Obstructionism, and the 24 hour news cycle killed it.@Sue_N @DonQuixotic @Sue_N @DonQuixotic @Sue_N @DonQuixotic