Presidential ponderings

I see that Barack Obama is about to be sworn in using Abraham Lincoln’s bible,  he will attend a formal lunch modelled on food that Lincoln enjoyed, served on china replicating that chosen by Lincoln’s wife.  On Saturday he will reprise part of the train journey Lincoln took before his inauguration, travelling from Philadelpia to Washington, meeting people on the way.  It’s Lincoln redux.

I know that both men hail from Illinois; I know that Barack deeply admires Lincoln.  I  recognize that Americans lionize their past presidents in a way that is quite foreign to us in Australia.  For instance, I noted that G.W. B. referred to Little Johnny Howard as Australia’s 25th [?- see, I don’t even know!] Prime Minister when awarding him the Medal of Freedom- and what a nauseating ceremony that was.  The idea of counting off  a succession of prime ministers wouldn’t occur to us.

But, returning to these inauguration plans,  does any politician today ‘own’ a politician of the past?  How would I feel if it were G. W. Bush cloaking himself in the mythology and symbolism of Lincoln?  Surely such parallels should be earned over time, and conferred by others rather than appropriated by some event-planner.

2 responses to “Presidential ponderings

  1. While I agree that it was nauseating to see Howard and Bush back together, there was some satisfaction in knowing that both had been thoroughly rejected by their electorates.

    Who would have guessed five years ago that Howard would end up losing his seat and that Bush would be seriously defending charges made in papers like the Herald Sun that he’s the worst President in America’s history (on second thoughts, the latter probably isn’t all that surprising…)

  2. You raise some interesting points Janine. And I wonder what Obama is wanting to identify with. I think, in the end, that Lincoln was as much a pragmatist as an idealist. Perhaps that’s a message Obama wants to send?

    Anyhow, I don’t think it is necessarily hubristic, as I think you fear, to want to invoke the symbolism of something you admire. The issue will more be “how” he does it, the “tone” he sets, rather than “what” he does, don’t you think? And, there is a danger in identifying too much with Lincoln – after all, look what happened to him! Maybe there’s defiance as well as alliance in his action?? Hmmm…

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