Once upon a time a time -- 1861-65 to be more exact -- the United States had another president from Illinois. Those lost in the present may consider that long ago, a piece of ancient history of no relevance to today's oh-so-advanced, oh-so-high-tech economy and society. For what could today's experts, technicians, pundits and poobahs possibly have to learn from a long-ago president in a stovepipe hat who by now has become more caricature than guide?
Such is the arrogance of the self-absorbed present, and why it so often leads to a failed future. For despite all their expertise, our scientists and leaders seem at a loss when it comes to plugging a spewing hole in the ocean floor.
All might have something to learn from Mr. Lincoln. He was dubbed the Great Emancipator, but, truth to tell, his prime objective, the goal for which he would sacrifice all else, and in the end did, was not freedom. Once his crisis struck, freedom became almost incidental to him. It was but another means to save the Union that had already been sundered by the time he took his oath of office as president of no longer United States of America. And that now lay writhing at his feet--some said beyond restoration. From that moment on, till he lay mortally wounded four years later, his mind and will were directed to but one goal: saving, reviving and re-creating that once vibrant Union. By any means necessary.
Call him single-minded. He was determined to save the Union no matter what he might have to sacrifice. Or as he himself would put it, if he could save the Union without freeing a single slave, he would. And if he could save the Union by freeing every slave, he would do that -- and did.
He knew what his duty was, and on what single basis history would judge him: Did he save the Union? As we would say today, the man was focused.
When it comes to the current crisis in the Gulf, you have to wonder if Barack Obama is.
This president confronts a different kind of crisis. A deceptive kind of crisis that has overtaken him -- and the country -- only slowly, rising like a foul tide that now threatens to wash away his once magic touch, his credibility, his presidency itself.
How's he doing? To hear him tell it, as he did direct from the Oval Office on Tuesday night, just fine. From the first, he's been on top of this thing: "From the very beginning of this crisis, the federal government has been in charge of the largest environmental clean-up effort in our nation's history...."