On Leadership
Video | PostLeadership | FedCoach | | Books | About |
Exploring Leadership in the News with Steven Pearlstein and Raju Narisetti

Ed Ruggero

Ed Ruggero

Ed Ruggero, author most recently of The First Men In, helps organizations develop the kinds of leaders people want to follow. His Gettysburg Leadership Experience teaches battle-tested leadership lessons that endure today.

Lincoln's audacious address

Last Thursday, November 19, marked the 146th anniversary of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

In late November, 1863, Abraham Lincoln resumed his seat on the dais at Gettysburg's new soldiers' cemetery after making the few "brief remarks" he'd been invited to deliver. The president turned to Marshal Ward Lamon, his friend and bodyguard, and said, "Lamon, that speech won't scour," which is what one said about a plow that wouldn't shed mud and was thus useless. It was clear that the Tycoon, as Lincoln's young aides called him, didn't think he'd accomplished much.

He was wrong. Lincoln's address is likely the most significant presidential oration in American history. It did nothing less than transform the meaning of the entire Civil War and refine our idea of who we are as a people. Its pronouncement about equality is so central to our modern identity that it's difficult for us to view Lincoln's remarks the way many of his contemporaries did.

Lincoln's critics--and they were legion, even in the North--thought he had overstepped his presidential mandate in the speech. He was sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States, as were the Union soldiers who fought at Gettysburg; but Lincoln did not speak of the Constitution on that November afternoon. Instead, he jumped back "four score and seven years" to 1776, when this "new nation [was] conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."

As Garry Wills points out in his masterful Lincoln at Gettysburg, Lincoln's detractors thought he'd pulled a bait-and-switch by holding up the Declaration of Independence, instead of the Constitution, as our defining document, the source of ideas for what makes our nation. The editors of the Chicago Times saw this as an outright betrayal of those men on whose graves Lincoln stood to give his speech. The Constitution, they pointed out, does not refer to equality and, in fact, allows for slavery.

Lincoln was arguing, in effect, that the Declaration of Independence (with its notion of equality) and the Constitution (with its acceptance of slavery) were fundamentally incompatible.

Wills says, "It was at this point in the argument that Lincoln distinguished between the Declaration as the statement of a permanent ideal and the Constitution as an early and provisional embodiment of that ideal, to be tested against it, kept in motion toward it." In other words, the Constitution is just the current law whose main function is to lift us toward that higher calling expressed in the Declaration of Independence. The Constitution can be amended; the Declaration's ideals are timeless.

Lincoln was so successful in nudging our thinking down this path that most Americans are unaware there ever was a debate over Lincoln's words. To us it is obvious that the Declaration's statement of ideals is pre-eminent, just as the evils of slavery are obvious to us in a way they weren't to many of our ancestors.

The question for us is about the precedent Lincoln set for leaders, and especially for presidents. How bold can a modern leader be? When is it right to take the audacious step of reshuffling a nation's priorities? Is it the leader's job, as Teddy Roosevelt once said, to choose the best course on behalf of, though not in consultation with, the people?

Lincoln lept boldly, and history judges him well. But such presidential assertiveness has not always ended well. For every Jefferson exceeding his authority to make the Louisiana Purchase (good), we have an FDR trying to pack the Supreme Court to better serve his own administration (bad).

As we look ahead to President Obama's forthcoming decision on the war in Afghanistan, we can ask ourselves: What would boldness look like here? And remember, you may not always like the answer.

By Ed Ruggero

 |  November 23, 2009; 5:46 AM ET
Category:  Presidential leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Our leadership crisis: Where are the women? | Next: Real work in private


Please report offensive comments below.

Proposed short speech for the President

I have decided to accept the plan to occupy areas of Afghanistan and use nation building to build the will of the Afghans to fight and defeat the Taliban. Areas of Afghanistan will be controlled totally by American forces with the population protected from both the Taliban and the corrupt government.

The exit strategy for the Unites States is simple.

Our troops leave Afghanistan when the Afghans have defeated the Taliban, or our troops leave when with mounting losses of Americans the United States decides it will no longer wait for Afghans to be willing to defeat the Taliban.

I am certain that Afghans will warmly accept our occupation of Afghanistan to protect Afghans.

I am certain that Afghans when they see the death of innocent Afghans, caused by firefights between American troops and the Taliban in crowded marketplaces, will understand that America is there to protect the Afghans, and that this will not ignite a holy crusade to force the foreign invaders out of Afghanistan.

I am sure my fellow Americans in a time of economic need here in America, fully understand the need for American resources and American effort to achieve nation building in Afghanistan.

Posted by: bsallamack | November 24, 2009 2:26 PM
Report Offensive Comment

On the front page of www.washingtonpost.com there is a picture of Abraham Lincoln associated with this article. When you rest your mouse on his picture, a popup appears identifying the man as Hillary Clinton.

Posted by: justmyopinion1 | November 24, 2009 6:39 AM
Report Offensive Comment

Lincoln was referring to all the things that grew from that moment on, not just one. Why is it that people want to create divisions where there are none? Why try to put a wedge into everything? Ed, you must be a right wing nut, looking for anything that will create discord for your political end.
What Lincoln wrote was a masterpiece with the goal of healing the nation after years of war. If you read it quietly you will see that it has healing power.

Posted by: msilva2 | November 24, 2009 6:39 AM
Report Offensive Comment

President Lincoln, except in suppressing civil liberties, was devoutly faithful to the Constitution. He did not believe in equality between men and women or between the races. His actions against slavery were rooted in his perception of a president's constitutional powers as commander-in-chief, not as fulfilling vague ideals in the Declaration of Independence. Lincoln's Gettysburg addesss did not transform the meaning of the American civil war to either most of his contemporaries or succeeding generations. Therefore I disagree with nearly everything this author says about Lincoln.

Since he knew the Emancipation Proclamation did not completely end slavery and was concerned it might be overturned by a Supreme Court decision, Lincoln turned to a constitutional remedy, the 13th amendment.

Obama will try to sell his war in Afghanistan to the American people, but a large minority, perhaps a majority, will no longer be fooled by mere rhetoric. No more American lives should be squandered supporting a widely perceived corrupt regime in another country's civil war.

Lincoln was opposed to foreign countries intervening in the American civil war, Obama supports this country being involved in the Afghan civil war.

Posted by: Aprogressiveindependent | November 24, 2009 2:02 AM
Report Offensive Comment


settle down. hysteria is a symptom of ovarian madness.

why are you in denial? lincoln was a loser. his face rapidly fell off during a delusional presidency because a crazy monkey look can not keep up with prolific lies from a fulsome mouth.

exploitation of slaves, the southern social program, was peacefully decreasing before 1860 unlike the notorious northern yankee exploitation of the proletariat that lasted til ww2.

conscripting people into a dangerous warzone is unamerican. thats why todays was is good because only volunteers are being grinded down to stumps, ptsd whining chumps, and lincoln chimps.

vive le vendetta et effectively export democracy

Posted by: therapy | November 24, 2009 12:07 AM
Report Offensive Comment

...you are lambasting Lincoln as yet another self-serving politician while praising him in the process? What a surprise.

The question is whether it is wrong to be a self-serving politician, and by what standards. It seems that as long as the goals of the administration are "laudable" in hindsight in terms of benefiting the country as a whole, "self-serving" actions are ok. It is just another example of "the ends justify the means". This will all spiral down into a debate over semantics as one must talk about what "benefiting the country" really means, how that has to be done, what are the pros and cons of each approach etc.

In the end it matters not as what will happen will be decided by those in power. Any way you slice it. Regardless of what has happened before.

Posted by: dubya1938 | November 23, 2009 10:49 PM
Report Offensive Comment

"Those who claim, falsly, that the New Deal did not end the depression should admit that there were powerful forces aligned that extended it."

It's not false.

First of all the so-called "Great Depression" was actually two recessions that came one right after the other. It is highly likely the 2nd recession was caused by the vast federal spending meant to end the first.

Nor is it correct to assume WW2 ended the great depression.

The 2nd recession was already ending by the time WW2 was starting.

As to the so-called "New Deal", most of it had little to do with the notion of ending the recession, rather it was an attempt at social engineering. The crown-jewel of the New Deal was primarily Social Security, which is in large part responsible for the grave crisis our government and economy are in. If not for Social Security, we actually afford health care reform.

The problem is, the people pushing these reforms do it on moral grounds and never understand (or care to) the financial underpinnings that would be required to make them feasible.

Sort of like healthcare now and the clear lie that it will save money. It will not and it cannot. It's like claiming free cars would solve the personal debt crisis. One doesn't follow from the other.

All of this stuff is primarily championed by people who are human leeches hoping to get something free from the "other guy". It's frankly outrageous.

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | November 23, 2009 10:46 PM
Report Offensive Comment


Tyrany of Lincoln, Roosevelt and the federal government? what are you smoking.

The south was built on a barbarous system that had been abolished in the north - plantations didn't work up there.

Lincoln was out to save the union - but what threatened the union was the balance of power in congress expressed by adding new states - and whether they'd be slave or free.

We can debate overreaching federal government in all sorts of ways - but to lament that the states rights weren't respected so they could keep killing, maiming, raping, and stepping on the necks of a whole race of people - is simply unAmerican!

Whatever the motiviations and individual 19th century morals of everyone involved - to wish the south had won is incredible! States Rights? - You mean the right to To kill and terrorize? hell the south did it anyway up until 35 years ago even with all of that so called 'Tyrany'.

Sounds like you might like to live in a place when those whose daddy's handed them position, influence, opportunity, wealth, preferred race, luck of gender at birth, etc. was what gave you the right to pursue life liberty and happiness. Everyone else? Screw 'em, enslave 'em, tell them to 'pull themselves up by the bootstraps' right?

what a maroon!

Posted by: IwillkickyourrightwingA | November 23, 2009 9:40 PM
Report Offensive Comment

TO THERAPY - you pompous ignorant yokel.

Lincoln - Tyrant? Yankee rubish? please.

Lincoln had to hold the border states in line - including slave owners - and couldn't afford to work against the very war effort by fomenting more strenuous rebellion in Maryland, DC, WV, Ky, Mo, etc.

Lincoln - through The union army - freed millions of slaves as they won territory in the south. the emanciapation proclamation was real.

You don't judge a supreme politician - one by necessity - by ascribing simple moral comparisons? that's not how it works. it's what he got done.

Tratorous southerners brought back into union? check.
All slaves freed by end of war? check.
Plantation econonmy destroyed? check.

what else you got?

And of course Lincoln freed the slaves - by waging war on the trators in the south, proclaiming their slaves free - and backing it up by conquering them and overthrowing their barbarous system.
And finally y introducing the 13th amendment in early 1865 which was not ratified until after one of your gallant southern sympathizers - the traitor wilkes booth - killed our greatest president.

Sic Semper Tyrannis indeed - and thus always to tyrants - the SLAVEOWNERS - death and removal.

Posted by: IwillkickyourrightwingA | November 23, 2009 9:28 PM
Report Offensive Comment

This is what Lincoln had to say about preserving/abolishing slavery and preserving the union. The gist is that preserving the union is paramount; it's not quite as simple as "Krankyman" would have you believe.

Lincoln made it clear that the North was fighting the war to preserve the Union. On August 22, 1862, just a few weeks before signing the Proclamation and after he had already discussed a draft of it with his cabinet in July, he wrote a letter in response to an editorial by Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune which had urged complete abolition:

I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be "the Union as it was." If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.
I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free. [7]

Just one month after writing this letter, Lincoln issued his first Emancipation Proclamation, which announced that at the beginning of 1863, he would use his war powers to free all slaves in states still in rebellion (as they came under Union control).

Posted by: epittelkau | November 23, 2009 9:23 PM
Report Offensive Comment

These posts prove once again that when government controls education it can revise history at will.

The Civil War, from a Northern perspective, was never about slavery. It was always about advancing a federalist concept of government which was not expressed in the Constitution.

Lincoln is famously on record stating if he could preserve the Union without abolishing slavery he would have done so.

The simple truth is a small number of mainly Christian groups who called themselves Abolitionists kept the issue of slavery to the fore. They were the ones who successfully led the fight for the abolition of slavery and not some generalized desire for emancipation of the slaves expressed by the Northern population as a whole.

The proof is the deep seated bigotry and discrimination one finds, even today, in cities such as Boston, New York, Chicago, etc. Those areas of the country fought for Federalism and not the Abolition of Slavery.

The best explanation for the Civil War can be found in the "Enumeration of Powers" clause in the Constitution. Quite simply those powers that were not expressly given to the Federal Government reside with states. If one examinations that clause one will see it is indeed a very short list of powers granted to the federal government.

What the Northern States wanted was a strong federal government and weak local governments; a condition in direct opposition to the Constitution where the states held the majority of power and the central government was designed to be weak.

Whatever the merits of the argument on either side one should note the Northern vision of America was violently forced upon the South through the tyranny of warfare.

The founding fathers had lived in an era in which there were few if any personal liberties. They lived at a time when, as colonists, they had no rights of representation and very little control over their own lives.

The Constitution was an attempt to codify those beliefs and prevent the loss of freedoms so recently won. One should note that much of the document and much of the theory came from people who resided in the south.

Now, over a hundred years after the Civil War, one can see the triumph of the Federalists. Through the actions of people such as Lincoln, Roosevelt, and their supporters we once more live in a system of tyranny where power is centralized into the hands of a very few while individual liberties have been destroyed.

Posted by: krankyman | November 23, 2009 9:04 PM
Report Offensive Comment

To me, Lincoln's Gettysburg address is what America is all about. It's why I volunteered to Vietnam and why I took a firm stand on Civil Rights. The speech is
the most wonderful vision of a better world ever made. God bless America.

Semper Fi

Posted by: marketeck | November 23, 2009 7:50 PM
Report Offensive Comment

A second look at FDR's "packing" plan. He was, after all, facing a conservative court that was blocking nearly every effort put forth to fight the depression. Those who claim, falsly, that the New Deal did not end the depression should admit that there were powerful forces aligned that extended it.

Posted by: dubhlaoich | November 23, 2009 6:28 PM
Report Offensive Comment

Thanks to "Ontour" for making it clear that I had not made myself clear. I meant that when one side clings to the inherited judgment “that Lincoln was right” in his audacity (I consider Lincoln one of our forefathers), and others cling to the traditional ideas about sexuality (held by others of our forefathers), the argument needs to be on the merits, not on the question of which side is the bigot. If it matters, I’m an atheist who very much favor openness, acceptance, and equal rights irrespective of sexual orientation. I just don’t think we’re ahead playing the “you’re a bigot” card.

Posted by: Whatzizname | November 23, 2009 6:14 PM
Report Offensive Comment

Lincoln's speech making was unadorned, elegant, succinct and relevant to the occasion.

The context of the Gettysburg Address allows it to be understood. It is a sombre speech made at the opening of a new cemetery to dignify, to recognise and to honour the sacrifice of the dead.

He started at the magnificent beginning that gave rise to the Union: The Declaration of Independence. This is the where the origins of the United States were born. He finished by proclaiming that '... these dead shall not have died in vain...' because the nation will survive.

His context is important: (a) the means by which his beloved new nation was formed; (b)the violence and turmoil that had consumed the nation and threatened its existence; (c) the sacrifice made by the dead to preserve the Union; and (d) the establishment of a new cemetery; and (e)the sacrifice which must never be forgotten.

The theme of his speech resembles many similar speeches made through the ages that honour the dead: their ultimate sacrifice must not be forgotten.

The origins and the newness of the Union was uppermost in his mind. Its establishment was an ultimate event. On the other hand, the Constitution, which is not mentioned, flowed from this consequence and is necessarily of secondary importance.

'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. ....

.... 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.'

Posted by: robertjames1 | November 23, 2009 6:12 PM
Report Offensive Comment

A great and thoughtful topic for rational/reasoned discussion:

The role of the Declaration of Independence vs. that of the US Constitution, and the conflicts between the two.

Unfortunately most of the blogs and comments the Post provides us mortals lack rationality and reason...

Posted by: Spectator | November 23, 2009 5:54 PM
Report Offensive Comment

the truth.. whether uttered and brought forward by an imbecile who never again says a worthwhile word ..or the lamentations of a tortured brilliant, passionate, human being, in the midsts or other very fine word they have said or will say, and ... who is charged with being a leader during trying times.. i think the truth resonates.. reverberates and perpetuates echoing sometimes into eternity with magnificence said at just the right moment in the cusp of history actually unfolding.. echos... itself beyond the mere mumbling of what ever erstwhile orator has uttered them.. these word can not be bought or sold if tried in faux the leader will look over thier sholder and see.. no one... a leader with nowone following is perhaps lost ..that is what i think we saw in the last administration in America..but i;m just a dyslexic blueridge mountain hilbilly ..fine artist of little reknown.. double check me might have jest got dis 1 wrung

Posted by: artistkvip1 | November 23, 2009 4:59 PM
Report Offensive Comment

Looking back I'm sure Lincoln would be proud the US elected another interracial President. Few Americans know the US History and that Obama isn't the first. Next none of our pass President would believe America had a President who is a open drunk/druggie uneducated and who stole two election while causing a Recession, illegally invading Iraq and murdering innocent woman/children while causing chaos around the World. Yes none of anyone in the building of the USA would believe American people were so uneducated and lazy that they allowed this to happen. When we hear Republican candidates such as Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and now Lou Dobbs you have to wonder how we dipped so low.

Posted by: qqbDEyZW | November 23, 2009 4:55 PM
Report Offensive Comment

Thanks to "Ontour" for making it clear that I had not made myself clear. I meant that when one side clings to the inherited judgment “that Lincoln was right” in his audacity (I consider Lincoln one of our forefathers), and others cling to the traditional ideas about sexuality (held by others of our forefathers), the argument needs to be on the merits, not on the question of which side is the bigot. If it matters, I’m an atheist who very much favor openness, acceptance, and equal rights irrespective of sexual orientation. I just don’t think we’re ahead playing the “you’re a bigot” card.

Posted by: Whatzizname | November 23, 2009 4:55 PM
Report Offensive Comment

Could we agree that he 'embellished' the Constitution and other major documents.

Posted by: cgs2000 | November 23, 2009 4:54 PM
Report Offensive Comment

Lincoln was not the first person since the Constitution's ratification to refer to the Declaration of Independence. In fact, when he gave the Gettysburg Address, he had already issued the Emancipation Proclamation, so by that time it unquestionably was clear that slavery was a main issue in the War.
Further, it had been recognized since the beginning of the Constitutional Convention that slavery was a countersign to the "all men are created equal" phrase in the Declaration of Independence. In fact, that abominable institution almost caused the Constitution to be still-born at the Convention.
Readers, beware of authors attempting to sell their wares by inventing non-existent issues!

Posted by: DoTheRightThing | November 23, 2009 4:26 PM
Report Offensive Comment

For Huguenotklj @ 12:39 p.m.
Sorry, but the Founding Fathers did see secularism as the most important aspect of their new government. The first right enumerated in the Bill of Rights is freedom FROM religon: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion...." Freedom OF religon is the second right: "...or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

Posted by: boyyourenosey | November 23, 2009 3:48 PM
Report Offensive Comment

A politician who would stand out in a similar way today, who would find the "obvious wrong" that others fail to see, might step out in support of gay marriage. In my lifetime I have seen religious leaders use the Bible to justify segregation, sexism, and descrimination in ways that most of us find unthinkable now. I believe the politicians and religious leaders of today who so vehemently oppose gay marriage, will be remembered by future generations as we remember George Wallace, standing in the doorway of the University of Alabama surrounded by National Guardsmen.

Posted by: erniek4567 | November 23, 2009 3:43 PM
Report Offensive Comment


You are parsing things which really should not be. The Declaration of Independence has always been "law" in this country.

Just like all the laws passed under the Articles of Confederation, they did not become invalid when the Constitution was passed.

The Northwest Ordinance in particular is an example.

Many of the differences you are referring to were eliminated with the adoption of the 14th Amendment. Also the 13th and 15th, so you are really comparing the Constitution without those amendments.

The Supreme Court has now incorporated many of the liberties you talk about into the 5th Amendment and the other Amendments of the Bill of Rights.

In a general discussion about the causes of the Civil - why the North fought, why the South fought - one may find that many of us formed our ideas from our textbooks in schools - many of these textbooks were written to simplify what really happened for young students.

The whole episode - the decisions to go to war on both sides - are a great deal more complicated than any textbook attempted to protray in a few short paragraphs.

For one moment, think about the interplay of interest groups in Washington today - then think about the interest groups at play in the 1850s - who they were and how they interacted - all that was going on separate from the rhetoric of the day.

The Dred Scot decision was out there - the economic interests of the South were out there attempting to defend their interests.

What always facinated me was this idea: The South always had one half the Senators, and thereby was able to block any legislation - the South also appeared to have a strong hold on the Supreme Court if one looked at Dred Scot and other decisions -

So with that political landscape, with the South in such a strong position, why did the South feel so threatened about having Lincoln as President?

I have always felt really sad about the loss of life during the Civil War, and wondered why slavery could not have been eliminated WITHOUT a war, like England and like so many other countries had done.

So why the drastic step to war, killing thousands of people?

Ed Ruggero - you correctly point out that the war did not start out as a war to end slavery - at some point that changed - at some point the reasons for the war changed.

My question is - OK we understand what the war changed INTO - but what was the war about before that - what was so important that both sides went to war and started killing thousands of Americans ???


Posted by: 37thand0street | November 23, 2009 3:37 PM
Report Offensive Comment

This reminds me of the start of Brave Heart, where the narrator warns us that the victor writes the history. What would have been Lincoln's legacy had he lived to encamp blacks on reservations as was done with the indigenous Americans?

Something to think about.

Posted by: MarriedMann | November 23, 2009 3:29 PM
Report Offensive Comment

How can leaders, or rhetoricians, for that matter, be allowed to elect to choose just any from a smorgasbord of historical documents to guide their policy?

Why have a constitution at all if it is not to be upheld?

Political leaders must change it BEFORE they implement their desired changes. Anything less is a betrayal of the electorate. Even Lincoln seemed aware of that when he said that his speech wouldn't "scour."

Regarding Afghanistan, it is still a certain matter of debate whether U.S. legal and philosophical principles should be applied to foreign policy. If they are, could they be applied with the full letter of our national laws? Some people urge this, but it's obvious it would be roundly contested in international courts.

Things are not as clear and simple as politicians like Obama and Eric Holder would have us believe.

Posted by: ttj1 | November 23, 2009 3:02 PM
Report Offensive Comment

Lincoln was a man of contradictions. An abolitionist, he owned slaves for a while when his wife had some when they married. No one really knows what happened to them- sold, freed, allowed to run away- it is a mystery.

The Emancipation only liberated slaves behind Confederate lines- slaves behind Union lines remained slaves. Thus, when Union General Isaac Wistar was criticized for allowing a Rebel woman to go into the Confederate line with a black baby to re-join her family, his only comment was that under the law, the baby was being carried from slavery into freedom.

His idea of equality for all men extended only to other males- women had to live another three generations to get the right to vote, and another three generations after that to get some sort of formalized equality.

Also, noticeably absent from Lincoln's belief of equality for all men is the idea that American citizenship should be extended to Native Americans. They were treated as second class, or even third class citizens, until the 1950s. Only then did some of them get the right to vote.

As to upholding the constitution, Lincoln used the US Army and arrested without warrant and imprisoned without trial most of the Maryland legislators who were considering secession. So much for habeas corpus, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, etc.

It was only when England and France appeared to support the Confederacy, that he changed the ideal of the war from Secession to freeing the slaves. Most Union soldiers volunteers entered the army when Ft. Sumpter was attacked, much as many Americans enlisted when the US was attacked on 9/11. They did not enter the army to free the blacks, but to save the Union. There is a lot I will believe, but I won't believe that many Republicans would spend their treasure and their sons to go away and free some unknown people, especially when they profited so much from the slave trade and products. It was a bait and switch that Lincoln did for political reasons, that is still confusing a hundred and fifty years later.

Posted by: LeeH1 | November 23, 2009 2:47 PM
Report Offensive Comment

If WHATZIZNAME is referring to Christianity when he says that there are those that try to maintain the beliefs of our forefathers', a few facts are needed. First, it appears that one or perhaps two of the five major contributors at the Constitutional Convention were Christian. Most were Deists without any specific religeous identity. One, Thomas Jefferson, may well have been an Atheist or at the very least agnostic.

It always amuses me to hear pompous politicians snf religeous protagonists proclaim the Christian propensity of our forefathers'. That is simply not the case.

Posted by: OnTour | November 23, 2009 2:40 PM
Report Offensive Comment

Ruggitos “pronouncement about equality” while the tyrant Lincoln enforced slavery law in the loyal union states of Maryland, Delaware, and West Virginia is typical yankee rubbish.

Modern audacious leadership will grind down more wanna be corrupt cops and their delusional partners in mental illness, including stupid nicotine dependant social workers, tattooed military bureaucrats, “protection order” pretty boys in uniform, and unfit fat & ugly liberal law enforcement lunatics.

Vive le terror et effectively export democracy

Posted by: therapy | November 23, 2009 2:11 PM
Report Offensive Comment

Take three of the more important documents from Amercian history, toss them into an open (largely) politcal forum and you get a sobering reality of current perception. Perhaps little has changed. Politicians will always cherry pick the past to justify the future as they see it.

If Lincoln used the Declaration's broad rhetoric to change the historical view of the Civil War, then it is also true that Jefferson took equally grand language from the writers of the enlightenment to prelude his flowery gripe list against George III in order to justify rebellion. The actual list of British transgressions isn't quite as moving by themselves.

For those who might enjoy irony. I believe the Declaration was written pursuant to a resolution of the Continental Congress calling for independence and breaking with Britain - introduced by Richard Henry ... Lee.

Posted by: mini1071 | November 23, 2009 1:37 PM
Report Offensive Comment

Here’s an addendum to B2O2, who says, “Here's a quick rule of thumb for busy people: bigots are pretty much always on the wrong side of history in a freedom-valuing country. It's just that way.” The problem is identifying the bigots: not everybody who tries to maintain some continuity with the beliefs of our forefathers (for instance, that all men are created equal) is a bigot. Maybe you can tell who is a bigot because they tend to end what hey say with “It’s just that way!"

Posted by: Whatzizname | November 23, 2009 1:24 PM
Report Offensive Comment

Interesting historical perspective. I think one can sum up the issue this way: leaders lead (when they aren't busy weaseling, consolidating power, or catering to their own corporate masters as they mostly do today), and then the followers decide whether or not they will follow.

Obviously, after some initial grumbling, the wisdom of the crowds has been that Lincoln was right in holding up the Declaration as the guiding light, and the Constitution as the technical work-in-progress toward actualizing the ideal laid out in the Declaration.

That's why there will be gay marriage in this country. Today's loud and angry crowd opposing this latest facet of American equality are every bit analogous to the one that in 1863 grumbled at the audaciousness of Lincoln in presuming that the Declaration of Independence pertained also to people with higher melanin in their skin. The bigots then were sure the idea was preposterous. The bigots today are equally sure the idea that gays and lesbians should have the same rights of assembly and partnership as other Americans is preposterous.

Here's a quick rule of thumb for busy people: bigots are pretty much always on the wrong side of history in a freedom-valuing country. It's just that way.

Posted by: B2O2 | November 23, 2009 1:02 PM
Report Offensive Comment

Let's be honest. Lincoln wouldn't stand a snowball's chance in Hades if he ran for president today. Convictions and principles no longer matter. It's focus groups, evasions and half truths said to convince people to read whatever they want now carry the day. The MoveOn.org's, the 700 Clubs, and their equals quash thought and deliberation in this country. Who's to blame? You and me, that's who. We've put up with this garbage, even sanctioned it for years now, and this is what we have to show for it. There are plenty of Lincolns, Washingtons, and Jeffersons out there who would be exceptional leaders, but we don't want to think for ourselves anymore. We abdicated that responsibility to the Hannitys, Olbermanns, and their ilk. We are broke and are sliding into oblivion because we willed it when we gave our duty to think and find out the truth to others.

Posted by: panamajack | November 23, 2009 12:59 PM
Report Offensive Comment

For many purposes, Dummypants is correct: the Declaration was not a legal document as between citizens. But between nations, it was: if the American states—former colonies—had the “separate and equal station” for which the Declaration made claim, then armed Americans captured on a battlefield would be held as prisoners of war; if not then they would be hanged as traitors. Ships at sea would be American belligerents or else pirates. If the American Continental Congress had the standing it claimed, then France and The Netherlands could lend us money. The document made a consequential declaration.

Posted by: Whatzizname | November 23, 2009 12:53 PM
Report Offensive Comment

"And for those who talk about the eloquence of the Declaration, get past the first paragraph, and it's just a list of complaints about George III's tyranny."

So what? King George is long gone but the issue of the equality of all human beings is still an idea that hundreds of millions of people are fighting for up until this day. Hundreds of millions of people have been killed just for expressing that idea.

The Declaration of Independence was more about a brief comment about equality and some rantings against King George. It provided a new ideological tool that inspired the breakup of the Spanish Empire in South America and lead to the slow but bloody spread of republicanism in Europe.

If, for example World War II from a US perspective was only an issue of getting even for Pearl Harbor or establishing peace with Nazi germany, Emperor Hirohito and Hitler were more than willing to negotiate peace in 1944, when the US was the first allied power to demand absolute capitulation from Japan and Germany.

No, the Declaration of Independence was as much of a legal building block of the US back in the days as it is now. Make the issue of equality of all human beings and the relevancy of the Constitution becomes irrelevant.

Posted by: thabomuso | November 23, 2009 12:53 PM
Report Offensive Comment

The Constitution must forever remain a restraint on the "lofty ideals" of the Declaration of Independence.

Posted by: slim2 | November 23, 2009 12:50 PM
Report Offensive Comment

The Declaration of Independence incorporated Lincoln's deeply personal view that all men are created equal, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These ideals that we so often banter around today, had a very rich and deep meaning for Lincoln. The Constitution is a legal document. In addition to providing the framework for our national government, tied to it is the bill of rights. In the 5th amendment is the guarentee of property rights. Slaves during Lincoln's time were viewed at least from a legal stanpoint, property and not people. Lincoln felt the Constitution tied his hands from doing something to abolish slavery, at least initially. It is plain to see that there is a conflict in Lincoln's mind between the ideals in the Declaration of Independence and cetain clauses in the Constitution like the guarentee of property rights. Lincoln will wrestle with that conflict as he progresses towards the Emancipation Proclamation. The proclamation opens the door for African Americans to serve in the Union military. Almost 190,000 serve in the balance of the war, nearly 38,000 die. The Empancipation Proclamation was extremely confrontational and remained so throughout the rest of his presidency. Some wanted to see Lincoln either rescind or amend the Emancipation if he was to be re-elected in 1864. Lincoln refused.
Lincoln was prepared to be defeated and be only a one term president. The fall of Atlanta in early September 1864 changed all that and the rest is history as they say.
If we only had leaders today with that type of foresight, CHARACTER, and COURAGE!

Posted by: jonblackman57 | November 23, 2009 12:41 PM
Report Offensive Comment

Yes, let's have a moratorium on religion for a year. And while we're at it, we can have a moratorium on free speech, assembly, trial by jury, equal protection, women voting, etc.

For those, by the way, who think the Founding Fathers were secular, remember that the very first freedom guaranteed by the Bill of Rights is religion.

And for those who talk about the eloquence of the Declaration, get past the first paragraph, and it's just a list of complaints about George III's tyranny.

Posted by: huguenotklj | November 23, 2009 12:39 PM
Report Offensive Comment

Smart legal argument dummypants. My counter-argument would be that to say that the Declaration of Indepence hs no bearing on the interpretation of the Constitution is like saying the Communist manifesto or Das Kapital has no bearing on the interpretation of the Constitution of the former Soviet Union.

Besides, I assume you are well aware of the fact that the Supreme Court from time to time referred even to the Federalist Papers when trying to interpret the constitution.

We all know, ladies and gentlemen, that the US Constitution wasn't created in a vaacum nor without inspiration from various philosophical sources.

Understand the ideas behind the Constitution in order to understand the Constitution.

Lincoln understood that there can in reality not truly be a government for the people and by the people when a significant part of the people lives in slavery.

Although all of us posters may have gotten a bit off the path of this discussion, which is really about good leadership and a rhetorical question of how Obama as a leader could honestly address US policies in Afghanistan, I still feel very refreshed by this debate.

Thabo 'Muso

Posted by: thabomuso | November 23, 2009 12:35 PM
Report Offensive Comment

the declaration was a political, not a legal, document. it was a campaign slogan that was used to drum up popular suppport and a sense of moral justification for rebellion.

it had nothing to do with governing, or the principles or rules that should govern governing.

any attempt to cite the declaration as a similar authority as the constitution is a pure political ploy. it was a fantastic document for its purpose, but unless obama really is a radical he wont cite it for anything other than a nice sound bite.

Posted by: dummypants | November 23, 2009 12:21 PM
Report Offensive Comment

Great post EarlC!

However, you are being unfair about one aspect of conservatives, or at least forgot to mention one thingthat might give us a more balanced view of their current ideologies,

They generally favor one kind of socialism. The socialization of corporate debts.

Posted by: thabomuso | November 23, 2009 12:20 PM
Report Offensive Comment

One of the propositions that the Declaration says we hold to be self evident is that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. It leaves open the question of how that consent is registered, but it does foresee that when a people establish new government, they will lay its foundations on such principles as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

Notice that any arrogant claim to a fix on universal truth has given way to a modest reliance on principles that SEEM LIKELY. When the second shoe drops—when it’s decided how the American people are going to register consent to be governed—the simple declarative clause is, “We ordain and establish THIS Constitution . . . .”

Posted by: Whatzizname | November 23, 2009 12:03 PM
Report Offensive Comment

...'My favorite U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, Sixteenth, President of the United States, once said, "I discovered, I always have choices and sometimes..."It's only a choice of attitude."

I voted for President Barack Obama, think he's doing a damn good job cleaning up a "BIG/REPUBLICAN/MESS/FACT!

Lincoln saved the Union and only time will tell if Barack can, America must help him, as one man can't do it all, it takes a village, a country, and a people to pull together, as we are a nation of one, who must pull together.

..."The dogmas of the quiet past he reminded them..."Are inadequate to the stormy present..."And the Occasion is piled high with differculty..."AND WE MUST RISE WITH THE OCASSION, "As our case is new,..."So..."WE MUST THINK ANEW..."AND ACT ANEW..."AND THEN...WE SHALL SAVE OUR COUNTRY."---Abraham Lincoln, Sixteenth, President of the United States.

Sincerely, Tommy Birchfield, Voter/Vet USAF, Graduate Student, Master's Program,

Posted by: ztcb41 | November 23, 2009 12:02 PM
Report Offensive Comment


Well then, it's about God, then. Which one?

Is this open for debate then, since it doesn't specifically mention Jesus, doesn't go into any details on Mohammad, and very sparse language on Abraham.

So what's your point?

I assert that it is a generalization, whenever "god", "divine", et cetera.

For instance, Lord Shiva is both God and Divine. lol.

Avoid the easy urge to get all defensive about "your" God. I think you should start with the word "freedom" in mind, and that should clear up any questions about whether or not you have a point at all.

Posted by: pgibson1 | November 23, 2009 11:49 AM
Report Offensive Comment

This country desperately needs a moratorium on religion. Simply stop injecting the topic into all national debate for one year. Let's see how much can be accomplished.

We might take that same year to contemplate our founding father's words on the concept of America; freedom (including religious), equality, and the constitution as a dynamic document that fairly governs this country through the rule of law.

Just leave God out of it. If he/she does exist I would guess that the last thing he/she wants to be in the middle of is this persistent and absurd argument about his/her existence. It's too costly a debate.

Posted by: eddie111 | November 23, 2009 11:45 AM
Report Offensive Comment

If Lincoln were alive today. he would be encouraging President Obama in his efforts to move America forward. The party of Lincoln deserted Lincoln many years ago. As bad and chaotic as it may be, the Democratic Party embodies the spectrum of ideals that have made America great.

Actually, I'd love to hear a conversation between Lincoln and Jefferson regarding the state of politics in America today. In fact, I'd love to hear their take on America today. I have come to believe that America must move beyond the current understanding of capitalism if we are to survive this century. As I see it, we are being forced to decide between supporting government or supporting corporations. I believe that my support belongs to the government, the government of "we the people." Unfortunately, the Haliburtons, Enrons, and the like are defining America at this point in time. The Chamber of Commerce has become the mouthpiece for corporate America. Our Congress is now struggling with whether they will support citizens or corporations. Corporate America spoke Saturday night with 39 our of 40 Republicans voting to stop the legislative process on health-care reform. I wonder why the lone Republican senator from Ohio abstained. One must wonder what Lincoln would have done Saturday night. In reality, there are no Lincolns in the Republican Party of today. The speeches that I heard Saturday night from the Republican leadership were pathetic. There is no wonder that they do not want to debate. Scaring people at "teaparty" events is their speed.

At this point, I pray that President Obama continues his course of deliberate thoughtfulness. Patience is a virtue of which Republicans have too little.

Posted by: EarlC | November 23, 2009 11:44 AM
Report Offensive Comment

Boldness? From President Obama? You've got to be kidding.

Posted by: elena4 | November 23, 2009 11:06 AM
Report Offensive Comment

I hesitate to even post this. But, one minor correction to Problematic. The Declaration does indeed mention a "god" in at least three places. One is the aforementioned "creator" reference in the second paragraph. A second in the the first paragraph where there is a specfic reference to nature's "God". A third appears in the last paragraph with a reference to "Divine Providence."

I have no idea what they ment when they wrote those words. But before we declare others as idiots it might help to actually read the source document in question.

Posted by: mastroj | November 23, 2009 11:02 AM
Report Offensive Comment

It is an interesting take, but I am not sure it is accurate. Lincoln always argued that the union predated the Constitution - that the Constitution was to create a more perfect union, but that the Union already existed per our rebellion as 'one people' inhabiting many states.

So in a speech at the site of a great battle fought to preserve that Union, he would have quite naturally looked back to the beginning of the Union - the Declaration of Independence.

Posted by: mgferrebee | November 23, 2009 10:49 AM
Report Offensive Comment

I enjoyed the essay. For whatever it's worth, I don't like the plug for the author that appears at the top.-- "Author/Speaker Ed RuggeroEd Ruggero, author most recently of The First Men In, helps organizations develop the kinds of leaders people want to follow. His Gettysburg Leadership Experience teaches battle-tested leadership lessons that endure today."

Posted by: Paul271 | November 23, 2009 10:21 AM
Report Offensive Comment

"Obama will never stand on hallowed ground the way Lincoln did!"

Nor has any President since- certainly not George W. Bush (who spat upon rather than upheld the Constitution throughout his term in office- in the manner of neocons everywhere hidden behind their false flagwaving), Clinton, George H. W. Bush, Reagan, etc. We have had a century of mostly lesser men elected to the Presidency.

We do not yet know how Obama will turn out, being less than a year into his first term. He is at least obviously more intelligent and thoughtful than his predecessor- but whether he will be effective remains to be seen.

Posted by: Ilikemyprivacy | November 23, 2009 10:21 AM
Report Offensive Comment

12thgenamerican, I support any declaration, any document or any charter which is truthfully and honestly dedicated to the notion of universal human rights, irrespective of the source cited for those rights.

Look. I don't have any idea what the word "Creator" actually means as it is used in the Declaration of Independence. I am quite certain that to a fundamentalist Christian or Biblical literalist it means the particular God they worship. Jefferson argued for the word Creator because he objected to the word God. He was a Deist who believed that the world was created by a prime First Mover but that He or It or whatever no longer concerned itself with the affairs of men.

It does little good to argue about such matters because in our finite lifetimes, we cannot "know" the answer to the questioon of who or what God is. We can believe all sorts of things about it but in the final analysis, our particular belief has no more credit to it than the aborigine in the deepest part of the Outback who still believes that an animal bone through his nose will keep out evil spirits.

A man named Joseph Smith calimed he had a vision in the woods of upstate New York of God and his Son Jesus Christ whereby he was commanded to eschew all of the other religions on earth and restore Christ's ancient Gospel and Church. That church became the Mormon church. Millions believe it. Many more millions do not. Over a billion people on this planet believe in Islam.

Belief--no matter how passionate--does not answer questions for people who want to "know". How do we know for example that the two beings Smith saw in his vision were not two aliens playing a paractical joke on him and the rest of us for their own amusement?

Posted by: jaxas | November 23, 2009 10:12 AM
Report Offensive Comment

@12thgenamerican who wrote:
>jaxas, and i would say that your side would
>run from the notion that the declaration had
>anything to do with the constitution,
>because it says our rights come from God,
>not the piece of paper. and anyone who >would sit in rev. wrights church for twenty
>years and also inflict the racist rev. on
>his kids, shouldn't be the president of the
>united states.

You theocrats will never get it through your thick skulls that the founders were generally secular men who we deeply suspicious of religion for reasons that you and your ilk demonstrate on a daily basis. Jefferson was NOT a Christian. He was a deist. He respected the message of Christ, but did not believe in his divinity.

The Declaration does not refer to God. It refers to our 'Creator'. You assume that this MUST be the Christian God, because in your mind it's impossible for anything good to happen that doesn't include His name. But in this case, it wasn't. Jefferson was referring to a broader, deist concept of a passive and remote creation. Don't believe me? Go read Jefferson's interpretation of the Bible and prove to me it shows a belief in Christ as the savior.

And you know what? Everything ISN'T about what a terrorist loving, America hating, fascist, socialist, atheist our President is. How about we just bask in the glory that was our greatest leader without injecting the politics of today into it?

Posted by: problematic | November 23, 2009 10:07 AM
Report Offensive Comment

If Lincoln were alive today 12thgenamerican, he would probably be a democrat. At the very least he would be one of those republicans you hyper conservatives out there call a "rino".

And it is a sure fire bet that he would consider the asinine rhetoric of Sarah Palin appalling. Remember as well that this President undertook massive spending projects to open up the west by construction of the Transcontinently railroad. If Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin had been alive in Lincoln's time, they would have called him whatever the equivalent word in those days was for a socialist or communist. And they most certainly have sided with the south in the Civil War and supported secession and slavery.

Look. All throughout our history, the right has been oppposed to every single progressive reform ever adopted into law from the laws preventing usury, child labor and monopolies, to the laws making it illegal to use race, sex or religion to keep someone from getting a job or an education.

This present partisan fires burning on the right and being fueled by self glorifying idiots like Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck are nothing new. Ms Palin even made the recent appalling statement that her mission was to make Barack Obama a "Half term President". A half term President? Apparently Palin and her anal huffing cult followers believe that this President is illegitimate. They reject the will of the voters as expressed in last year's election.

This is the way they think. It is not bvery different thant the way a dedicated totalitarin thinks. They don't believe in elections that do not turn out in their favor. So I assume Palin thinks this President can be impeached for nothing more than having a philosophy of government that is different from hers.

Posted by: jaxas | November 23, 2009 9:56 AM
Report Offensive Comment

jaxas, and i would say that your side would run from the notion that the declaration had anything to do with the constitution, because it says our rights come from God, not the piece of paper. and anyone who would sit in rev. wrights church for twenty years and also inflict the racist rev. on his kids, shouldn't be the president of the united states.

Posted by: 12thgenamerican | November 23, 2009 9:43 AM
Report Offensive Comment

on occassion we get a president who in fact stands for what he was elected to doo.act in the peoples interests.stand tall, president obama..

Posted by: sombrero | November 23, 2009 9:41 AM
Report Offensive Comment

"You fux newsies really need to get out of your bubble and read or watch some news."
Posted by: John1263 | November 23, 2009 8:20 AM

And where, pray tell, should one go for truly objective coverage?

Posted by: creeper92 | November 23, 2009 9:39 AM
Report Offensive Comment

Lincoln's soaring words were never more appropriate than they are today. We are presently engaged in a debate over whether the ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence and codified in the US Constitution are universal or simply linmited to American citizens.

Yet, if one reads the the Declaration, it becomes beyond obvious that the writers of that document believed those ideals to be universal. All men are created equal. That seems absolutely definitive to me. Yet, because of the partisan fires that burn at this moment in time, the opponents of President Barack Obama lay the absurd claim that the ideals laid out in our Declaration of Independence are for American citizens only.

What makes this argument particularly galling is that its proponents--mostly conservatives and libertarians--have argued forcefully in the past that these ideals and the rights implied by them are natural, universal and come from the Creator. They even used this ideal as a fundament to commence a war of regime change in Iraq and have consistently used it as an argument against all manner of totalitarian regimes.

It seems that the election of Barack Obama has upended the right to an extent that they no longer know who they are.

Posted by: jaxas | November 23, 2009 9:39 AM
Report Offensive Comment

if lincoln were alive today the first thing he would do is declare war on al gore.

Posted by: 12thgenamerican | November 23, 2009 9:39 AM
Report Offensive Comment

Those who designed the Constitution, and even the Declaration of Independence, largely believed in the superiority of whites over blacks and men over women. The Supreme Court, in the Dred Scott decision, said Congress could not prohibit slavery. Many argued, even into modern times, that perpetuating discrimination and inequality was a lesser evil than moving away from strict constructionalism. Of course, most of these people were not suffering the discrimination.

Posted by: Sutter | November 23, 2009 9:19 AM
Report Offensive Comment

Obama is no leader and talks to much through the words of speech writers!! Take away the teleprompter and Obama is lost in space!

Obama will never stand on hallowed ground the way Lincoln did!

Posted by: jjcrocket2 | November 23, 2009 9:18 AM
Report Offensive Comment

One didn't need to be a legal expert to realize the Declaration of Indepence was incompatible with the original text of the Constitution.

It is also quite clear the intentions of the Declaration of Independence had not been fullfilled by the Constitution, or that the Constitution doesn't explicitly prohibit many of the things the ideals the Declaration of Independece strived for.

The Constitution allowed for womens right to vote, but they didn't have the legal right to vote at the time the Constitution was written.

The Constitution doesn't explicitly prohibit the existence of an American nobility nor an American monarch, if they were to have been created.

Had anybody tried to create such social institutions, Americans would have rebelled against it for the same reason they rebelled against the British rule.
Regardless of whether it would have been Constitutional or not. The reason for it having been against the ideals put forward in the Declaration of Independence.

One poster here argues that the South had the right to seceed from the Union. I say maybe, but there was still a problem of how to define a legal seccession.

What about the slaves and "freed" black people that presumably wanted to stay in the Union and become US citizens with the right to vote. Did they have a say in the debate about seccession? Obviously no.

thus, the Civil war was from a legal perspective just, in that Union Army fought against some states that choose to enslave their fellow Americans and even keep them from having an opinion about whether they wanted to leave the Union or become fullworthy US citizens, let alone whether the desired to live in slavery.

By the way, the Confereacy never complained about the fact that the original Constitution allowed for slave states to count every slave as a third of the vote, even though the slaves couldn't vote themselves.

What Lincoln did in his Gettysburg adress was simply telling the truth and being morally just at the same time. The Constitution allowing slavery was incomatible with the founding ideas of the United States, and the Civil War was a morally and legally just war against oppression.

By daring to both tell the painful truth and being formally right at the same time,
Lincoln was a one in a thousand kind. That's why he like many other leadres like him, was murdered for his words maybe even more than for his deeds.

We need more leaders like Lincoln.

Posted by: thabomuso | November 23, 2009 8:34 AM
Report Offensive Comment

Failing the audacity and intelligence of a Lincoln or Teddy Roosevelt, perhaps we ought consider anew the possibilities of secession or, at the least, calls for a constitutional convention.

The principles of the Declaration, rather than a first and provisional attempt at a Constitution, I would argue and agree, obtain.

The isolate, lazily, complacently corrupt central government is rightly perceived as failing, consistently and utterly.

We need to take risks, to shuffle the deck, to consider structural reform at a deep level.

To start anew.

Failing that, it's simply the long, ongoing slouch to nothing much at all – or collapse, chaos and revolution, the ultimate roll of the die.

Posted by: atomikweasel | November 23, 2009 8:22 AM
Report Offensive Comment

Great commentary this morning on the radio trying to come up with a name for the first decade of the 21st century. The line "fox news has convinced a chunk of the population that they are entitled not just to their opinions, but to teir own seperate set of facts, regardless of how ficticious they may be."

You fux newsies really need to get out of your bubble and read or watch some news. Endless prattling propagandists have convinced you that you should believe them and not your own eyes.

Posted by: John1263 | November 23, 2009 8:20 AM
Report Offensive Comment

The Gettysburg Address was not about the Constitution, it was about the efining ideals. Those are found better expressed in the Delaration. the Constitution creates a framework to turn those ideals into practical form of governance.

What the gettysburg Address did was deny the right of treasonous insurrection because of the inspired heritage and the duty we as Ameriucans have to forwarding the heritage we have been bequeethed - in other words you cannot attack the united States if you are part of the United States because we have A. elections and B. the responsibility of "securing the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity." The way in which the author of this article misinterprets this Address is not that it goes to the Declaration and therefore denigrates the Constitution, what it does is redefine who "all men" are and to whom that blessing of liberty shall be extended.

Posted by: John1263 | November 23, 2009 8:17 AM
Report Offensive Comment

Rarely discussed today, from a legal or constitutional stand point the whole civil war was probably "illegal." Whoever said a state couldn't leave a voluntary union? That said, I could not be happier that Lincoln held us together, and ended the moral blight of slavery. Not bad for one man.

Posted by: SageThrasher | November 23, 2009 8:06 AM
Report Offensive Comment

"In Lincoln's day most every politician wrote their own speeches, but never read them. They could talk for hours without notes. Take away the teleprompter and watch the sweat beads appear today."
Posted by: mharwick
Lincoln read the Gettysburg Address.

Posted by: st50taw | November 23, 2009 8:04 AM
Report Offensive Comment

It is stunning that after eight years of a barely literate imbecile mumbling and smirking his way through "subliminable" messages about "putting food on your family" and every other Bushism (It happened so often that a word was coined!) that conservatives could ever call Obama a teleprompter president. Have they ever heard him speak? Thanks for the mindless parroting of talk radio and Fox News propanganda, dittohead.

Back on topic, President Obama is getting a reputation for Hamlet in Chief. By all means, review AfPak policy carefully, but by the meagerest definition of boldness (or audacity, ahem), the Obama administration at least ought to be in control of the national debates on most topics. Where were they all summer on health care while the death panel lunatics were working up steam? The right wing echo chamber now precludes the strategy of ignoring nonsense to make it go away.

Why are Sens. Nelson, Landrieu, and Lincoln allowed to throw the entire Democratic party agenda into peril by holding out for parochial sweeteners? That Keystone Kops act is ridiculous and you'd better believe no Democratic party leader in Congress is going to get a nickname like "The Hammer" while even getting all the Democrats to vote the same way feels like a bipartisan compromise.

Posted by: hayesap8 | November 23, 2009 7:37 AM
Report Offensive Comment

Thanks, Mr. Ruggero, for writing such an interesting essay. Your writing is informative and thought-provoking. One idea that strikes me is that President Lincoln gave great thought before he addressed those who had gathered on the battlefields of Gettysburg. We are fortunate to have Barack Obama as president, as he is another great thinker. He may not be as bold as you desire, but he does think, and I, for one, appreciate that quality in all.

Posted by: marmac5 | November 23, 2009 7:32 AM
Report Offensive Comment

In Lincoln's day most every politician wrote their own speeches, but never read them. They could talk for hours without notes. Take away the teleprompter and watch the sweat beads appear today.

Posted by: mharwick | November 23, 2009 6:49 AM
Report Offensive Comment

If Lincoln were alive today to see what some people are doing with their so-called "freedom" he would be appalled! I'm sure that he would never intend for independence to mean freedom from personal responsibility with the government obligated to step in and take up the slack.

Posted by: Georgetowner1 | November 23, 2009 6:46 AM
Report Offensive Comment

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company