Thousands gathered at Gettysburg on Tuesday to mark the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address, but President Obama, who likes to make speeches, was not among them. The iconic 272-word speech paid solemn tribute to the thousands of Americans in Union Blue and Confederate Gray who died there. “The world will little note nor long remember what we say here,” Lincoln said on that distant day, “but it can never forget what they did here.” Lincoln was wrong, of course; the world has never forgotten either the men who died there nor the man whose address made them immortal. But the 44th president declined to participate in the sesquicentennial commemoration.
It was a remarkable snub. Mr. Obama finds Lincoln useful to invoke for his own purposes. Mr. Obama announced for president at Lincoln’s Springfield law office and took his oath as president with his hand on Lincoln’s Bible. But an aide said he couldn’t make the short helicopter hop to Gettysburg because of “the whole website thing.” The York Daily Record, published nearby, called the snub “unacceptable.” Mr. Obama’s slight of the Gettysburg Address and the anniversary didn’t end there.
Mr. Obama revised Lincoln’s speech, you might say, when PBS invited 62 Americans, including all living former presidents, several governors, celebrities and others to recite the Gettysburg Address for a video by filmmaker Ken Burns. Mr. Obama’s is the only recitation to omit the words “under God” from the passage “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.” Mr. Obama was apparently asked by Mr. Burns to recite from the so-called “Nicolay Copy,” or first draft, which doesn’t include “under God.” The copy in Lincoln’s own hand, bearing his signature and the date, includes the divine invocation.
This was not the first manifestation of Mr. Obama’s theophobia. On other occasions, Mr. Obama has omitted “by our Creator” as the source of the “unalienable rights” cited in the Declaration of Independence. In an April 2009 speech at Georgetown University, religious iconography was covered up at the Jesuit institution after the White House demanded a “neutral” television backdrop. It was at a campaign fundraiser in San Francisco that Mr. Obama made his famous remark dismissing Americans in flyover country — “they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion” as a way “to explain their frustrations.”
The White House explains that the president couldn’t make it to Gettysburg because it “didn’t work schedule-wise.” On the other hand, Mr. Obama finds the time, schedule-wise, to make it to fundraisers, dinners where he is the honoree, golf outings, even to a national Planned Parenthood conference, a first for a sitting president. He even used the G-word to the abortion lobby, and nobody fainted. “Thank you, Planned Parenthood,” he said. “God bless you.” That speech lasted 12 minutes, six times the length of the Gettysburg Address. But it’s fair to say that it wasn’t six times more important.