Lincoln and bush:An analysis of their similarities and differences It is often said that history repeats itself—that the same things will happen over and over again until we have fully learned our lesson. The same, I believe can be said about President Bush and President Lincoln and the way they presided over the United States during their respective terms of office. Many people are of the opinion that the two presidents share a lot of things in common.
Hence, the main theme of this paper is to look at these possible similarities and the possible impact of these similarities to their presidency, America in particular and the World in general.In looking at their similarities, let us first pinpoint the obvious: both of them were Republicans. Neither Bush nor Lincoln was elected to the presidency by a majority of the popular vote.
Both Bush and Lincoln chose seasoned men as their Secretaries of State. Lincoln chose William Seward, former Governor of NY. Bush chose Colin Powell, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (Griessman, 2002)In terms of their political decision, the two presidents have been described as divisive leaders. In his paper entitled “Bush’s Parallels With the Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt Administrations”, Rich Stowell notes that both President Bush and Lincoln were considered as divisive leaders in the sense that they divided America with regard to certain political issues. And while Lincoln can be considered a divisive leader, history has also proven that the desire for southern independence was not only unwise, but also immoral and illegal. He loved the American political system and lauded it as ”the last best hope on earth.
” In the face of secession by the Confederate States of America, he realized that only overwhelming military force could end slavery and restore the union. In other words, Lincoln was willing to fight for what not merely popular, but more importantly, for what was right. (Stowell, 2004)All these, notes Stowell, Lincoln did at the risk of losing the presidency. He noted that Lincoln never enjoyed much popularity during his presidency. He won the 1860 election on a very slim margin which, according to Stowell, was only because the Democratic Party had split three ways. In 1864 he defeated his opponent, a Peace Democrat, with only those northern states still in the Union casting votes, only due to a few recent military successes. Throughout the war, he was dogged by low public approval and a press that unendingly second-guessed his war policy. Yet if anyone else was in the White House, it is almost certain that disunion would have prevailed and slavery would have been prolonged.
(Stowell, 2004)In looking at George Bush’s presidency now, we will also see that, just like Lincoln during his time, Bush is constantly faced with criticism from the press on his war leadership. Like Lincoln, he understands the moral imperative the United States has to use military strength to defeat an unquestionable evil, and he must persistently convince the public of his position. In fine, the American public has shown its displeasure in the aggressive way President Bush is addressing the issue of global terrorism. Many Americans have even gone far as saying that the acts of the president borders on obsession. However, Stowell notes that President Bush believes and acts in a manner that shows that unity can come only after our enemies are made to submit to us (Stowell, 2004).Many believe that the similarities between the current Global War on Terror and the American Civil War are more apparent that one would care to admit. Slavery –which was ultimately the reason behind the Civil War –is indeed one of the most abhorrent practices ever practiced and was anathema to every principle on which our country was founded.
As noted by George F. Holland in his online article entitled “In the War on Terror, Bush Employs Lincoln’s Civil War Leadership Model”, America simply could not exist while such a contradiction to its national character was accepted. Lincoln consistently expressed that his major reason for fighting the Civil War was to preserve the Union. However, he fully understood that the nation could not be preserved, prosper and evolve naturally if it was not true to its self. And it could not be true to its founding principles while the institution of slavery was allowed to exist anywhere within its borders. On the other hand, terrorism is being considered by Bush as an international evil –an evil which currently threatens the survival of America and its very foundations.
As noted by Holland, terrorism is very much like slavery in the sense that it is also a “destructive and corrosive practice, which preys on the innocent and destroys everyone in its path”. Without a doubt, the United States has been singled out by global terrorists as its main target and so, while President Lincoln engaged in a fight to make the nation free from slavery, President Bush is engaged in a struggle to make the nation free from terrorism. (Holland, 2003)Another similarity that can be noticed in the events that surrounded the presidency of George W.
Bush and Abraham Lincoln is the manner by which these events escalated. As noted by Holland, just as the battle against domestic slavery built up over the course of many decades before it finally erupted in a Civil War, over the last forty years international terrorism has been slowly striking closer and closer to American lives on American soil. Holland notes that over the last ten years terrorists have launched attacks closer to American soil and with growing lethality. They attacked a U.S. barracks overseas, a U.S.
war ship in a foreign port, and a first unsuccessful attack on the World Trade Centers in New York. The culmination of those decades of unfettered and escalating terrorist activity was the second and very devastating attacks on the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon. (Holland, 2003)Another similarity is the way Bush’s and Lincoln’s opponents tried to gain points by pointing the finger and openly making appeals to end the conflicts by which these two presidents were in the middle of. In the same paper, Holland notes that both the Civil War and the War on Terror brought calls from the international community to end the conflict and yet those calling for so-called peace did not have nor give the faintest idea on how to go about it.
During the Civil War no appeasers discussed how to allow slavery to continue and still espouse the nation’s founding principles, and today no appeasers have any concrete plans on how to protect our nation from international terrorism if we abandon our operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.As with Lincoln during the Civil War, President Bush is coming under fire by his Democratic opponents for the conduct of the conflict. And, in a bizarre coincidence both Presidents faced a retired war hero – Lincoln faced General McClellan and Bush is facing General Clark, who was a political novice and called for an immediate end to the conflict. In General McClellan’s defense he did not blame Lincoln for the beginning of the war as did our own General Clark.
What I also found interesting is the fact that in both the Civil War and the War on Terror, a war weary population was beginning to forget why they entered the war and was being lured by the siren of the easy way out. In both cases the Democratic Party wanted to end the conflict without victory and turn its back on the very issue which was its cause.Again, this issue highlights one other similarity between Lincoln and Bush: both of them fully understood the necessity of fighting the evil they confronted and risked their political careers and upcoming election to do the right thing. In other words, Presidents Bush and Lincoln fully understood the threat to national survivor they faced and that they remained steadfast in their resolve to defeat those respective threats in order preserve the unity and security of the nation. For both men, confronting and defeating the evil proved more important than politics, popularity, and power. (Holland, 2003)Now, the pressing question is this: will history be as kind to Bush as it was to Lincoln in the sense that America has finally understood the reason behind Lincoln’s stance during the Civil War? Will Bush be able to vindicate himself the way Lincoln after his death? It is important to note that however imperfectly he did it, Lincoln defeated slavery — an institution that had enjoyed the protection and support of the U.
S. government until then. And history gives him that honor and Americans rank him among their greatest presidents. Again, the question is whether history will think of President George Bush the same way?As the cliché goes: only time will tell.
As noted by Stowell in his article, George W. Bush has been placed in the presidency in a unique time in history. While similarities exist among events and people of the past, our world is at a crossroads, and Bush is poised to lead us to a better future. And if he plays his cards right and learn from the lessons of the past, then George Bush might just be an even better president that the man in Mt. Rushmore.;;;;;;;;References:Griessman, Gene 2002: Is George Bush the New Abraham Lincoln? [online]Available at: http://www.presidentlincoln.com/poparticle-Lincoln-Bush.html[cited on June 12, 2006];Holland, George 2003: In the War on Terror, Bush Employs Lincoln’s Civil War Leadership Model [online]Available at: http://magic-city-news.com/cgi-bin/artman/exec/view.cgi/1/598/printer[cited on June 12, 2006] Lancaster, Joseph: The Importance of Critical Thinking in a Democracy [online]Available at: http://faculty.fortlewis.edu/lancaster_k/kurt/[cited on June 12, 2006] Novak, Michael 2005: A Bold and Brave Advance [online]Available at: http://www.nationalreview.com/novak/novak_levenick200503010746.asp[cited on June 12, 2006] Stowell, Rich 2002: Bush’s Parallels With the Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt Administrations [online]Available at: http://www.chronwatch.com/content/contentDisplay.asp?aid=7170[cited on June 12, 2006];The Sciolist, 2004: Three Ways of Seeing the Present through the Past [online]Available at: http://etymonline.com/columns/threeviews.htm[cited on June 12, 2006];;;;;