Wednesday, May 11

Dishonest Dave

Okay, this has been nagging at me and it's not gonna stop unless I say something. Last week David Brooks did yet another in his long line of "the religious right isn't really all that powerful and besides the militant secularists I invent are just as bad" routines which stretch back to his first whiff of the "moral values" bushwa. Poor Bobo is caught in this horrifying tug-of-war, y'see, which he wants us to believe is between extremists on either side but is really between his cosy little Reagan-era homilies and the brick wall they've run into. As you probably know already, he's gone an' drug Honest Abe into it:

Abraham Lincoln gathered his cabinet to tell them he was going to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. He said he had made a solemn vow to the Almighty that if God gave him victory at Antietam, Lincoln would issue the decree.


Now, I've seen that story, variously quoted. I don't know the source for it; presumably it came from a member of the cabinet. But there are a couple of problems with Brooks' telling of it. The minor one is the reference to Antietam. It was, indeed, the Bloodiest Day which gave Lincoln the victory he needed to issue the Proclamation. But every history I've even read agrees that Lincoln had actually made the decision some weeks earlier, before Lee invaded Maryland.

That revisionism might be of no importance, but the larger problem is. In Brooks' tale Lincoln appears to be playing the Lotto with God. Victory at Antietam thus becomes some sort of confirmation of His existence to the famously doubt-filled Great Emancipator. It's a Parson Weems job, a sorry political hack turning a great and complex political leader into an elementary-school morality skit.

Here's what Lincoln said on September 13, the same day the Federals entered Frederick:

These are not, however, the days of miracles, and I suppose it will be granted that I am not to expect a direct revelation. I must study the plain physical facts of the case, ascertain what is possible and learn what appears to be wise and right.


I'll not waste time suggesting Brooks could do the same.

7 comments:

harry near indy said...

doghouse, a big problem with bobo citing religion is that he's jewish. last time i looked, jews haven't accepted jesus as the messiah.

many on his side, especially the more militant ones, say jesus is the messiah, and those who don't believe -- well, probably not heaven bound.

damn few people will call him and other jewish conservative pundits who play the religion-is-being-persecuted card on their bullshit.

Hokie said...

Who's Parson Weems?

KathyR said...

Hey, Harry. I'm with you.

One of my husband's oldest friends is a Jewish hardcore Bushie. Eew.

Efforts to convince him that throwing his lot in with the Rapture-based nation are, at a minimum, counter to his religion have made no impact. It's all about Bush being on his knees to Sharon.

Nice quote, Doghouse. I detect a gambling theme today.

doghouse riley said...

Parson Weems was the author of a biography of George Washington designed for moral instruction rather than, let's say, strict historical accuracy. Weems is responsible for the chopping down the cherry tree story. Maybe they don't tell kids that one anymore.

Yosef said...

I think there should be a rule that no one can invoke Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson (or any of the founders for that matter), or anything else like that in this day and age. The way people wrote and sometimes spoke was completely different, everything was done for rhetorical oratory purposes.

It would be like 200 years from now someone trying to say that everyone used to have huge ranches and raise cattle because they always said "Dude".

Hokie said...

Yosef: It's amazing how, especially in Jefferson's case, he can be invoked on every side of the states' rights debate (though I argue any real notion of states rights died with Calhoun), church/state separation (though this completely boggles my mind), etc.

But hey, when the modern Republican Party can call themselves the Party of Lincoln, I guess everything's fair game.

Yosef said...

Actually, we may be able to turn it into a fun game. Find someone respectable (or respected by those who disgree with you) who said something that supports 100% the opposite of what you support. Then edit down their comment through use of elipsis and brackets (or even myth) and make it support your cause.

For example, when Marie Antoinette said "Let them eat cake," she plainly supported the establishment of a socialistic form of government in which there would be no distinction between classes and all would be able to enjoy the same luxuries of life.