Faced with an inability to reach a deal with congressional Republicans on the “fiscal cliff,” President Obama is downplaying his own comparisons of himself to Abraham Lincoln, a president often credited with holding feuding Washington factions together.
Asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press” if the fiscal negotiations were his “Lincoln moment,” Mr. Obama replied: “Well, no. I never compare myself to Lincoln and … obviously the magnitude of the issues are quite different from the Civil War and slavery.”
Actually, Mr. Obama has evoked deliberately comparisons with Lincoln ever since he announced his candidacy for president on Feb. 10, 2007, at the Old State Capitol building in Springfield, Ill. He chose the site because it was the same place where Lincoln gave a famous speech condemning slavery and called for the Northern and Southern states to unite.
“I recognize there is a certain presumptuousness in this, a certain audacity,” Mr. Obama said at the time.
After he won the presidency in 2008, Mr. Obama even decided to retrace the route of Lincoln’s 1861 train trip to Washington for his inauguration. He rode in a vintage rail car on the 137-mile route from Philadelphia to Washington and appealed “not to our easy instincts but to our better angels,” a reference to Lincoln’s first inaugural address.
On “Meet the Press,” Mr. Obama said the lesson he’s learned is that “democracy’s always messy.”
“Eventually we do the right thing,” he said. “So one way or another, we’ll get through this. Do I wish that things were more orderly in Washington and rational and people listened to the best arguments and compromised and operated in a more thoughtful and organized fashion? Absolutely. But when you look at history, that’s been the exception rather than the norm.”