Mona Charen

Bounding from bromide to platitude, Obama alighted on his true theme -- to excoriate his opponents and to deny that choices must be made between providing lavish welfare state benefits and ensuring the prosperity of future generations. Deploying well-worn campaign themes, he slashed away at straw men: "We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky or happiness for the few." And: "We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war." And: "For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts."

In the midst of the worst crisis the United States ever faced -- with hundreds of thousands of soldiers already dead, thousands more wounded and the outcome uncertain -- Lincoln found it within himself to be charitable and humble. Of the contending sides in the Civil War, he said: "Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes his aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged."

Though he could have been excused for a certain moral superiority -- he was fighting the slave power, after all -- Lincoln instead proclaimed, "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds ... to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves and with all nations."

Lincoln did not strut. He was too wise. Obama's attempt to lasso Lincoln's legacy for his narrow partisan ends reveals that he doesn't even understand Lincoln's greatness, far less partake of it.

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Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
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