The Republicans' latest attempt to whitewash President Bush's pre-war lies is to elevate him to the level of President Lincoln by equating Bush's pre-war falsehoods with the fact that Lincoln initially had stressed that the Civil War was about saving the Union and not ending slavery. Detroit News columnist Thomas Bray's "President Lincoln 'Lied' Us Into War Too" is the latest articulation of this claim. This argument, like President Bush's pre-war justifications, is unsupported by the facts.
President Lincoln came into office at a time of crisis with seven states having withdrawn from the Union and formed a provisional government during the time between his election and taking oath. His inaugural address stressed the preservation of the Union, making reference to the word "union" twenty (20) times while only mentioning slavery four (4) times. There is no doubt that preservation of the Union was the primary reason Lincoln and the rest of the nation entered and waged war against the South.
The subsequent Emancipation Proclamation does not mean that Lincoln "lied us into war" to eliminate slavery, since it was a strategic decision to support the primary goal of preserving the Union. The Proclamation was a triple blow to the Southern war effort since it undermined their reliance on slave labor, spurred the mass enlistment of Northern African-Americans and foreclosed European recognition and support of the Confederacy.
President Bush came into office without any crisis, but still sought conflict with Iraq from his first week in office. In his October 7, 2002 address to the nation on Iraq, Bush referred to weapons of mass destruction in various forms thirty-one (31) times, Iraq as "threat" seventeen (17) times and Al Qaeda six (6) times. These were the primary reasons Bush urged us to wage war with Iraq, even though Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, had no ties to Al Qaeda and was not a threat. Not once in this address, however, does Bush mention spreading democracy (or feeding Halliburton).
There are other significant dissimilarities. Lincoln sought to unite a divided country "[w]ith malice toward none, with charity for all," while Bush has sought to exploit its divisions.
Lincoln was not concerned "whether God is on our side; [but whether we are] on God's side," whereas Bush believes he was chosen by God to lead the country into Iraq.
Lincoln raised taxes to fund the Civil War, while Bush cut taxes for the rich and passed the costs of the war to future generations.
Lincoln won and ended the Civil War in four years, while Bush has indicated that the Iraqi conflict will last at least six years and continue into the next administration.
Lincoln opposed the preemptive Mexican-American war as unnecessary, while Bush created a doctrine of preemption to wage a war of choice in Iraq.
Lincoln also was an avid reader and intellectually curious, while Bush . . . (I think you get the point).
In fairness, Bray's argument is not totally without merit since both Lincoln and Bush were Republicans who were elected without a majority of the popular vote and were questioned by their generals. In addition, in three years' time he will also have the fact that both Lincoln and Bush were succeeded by Democrats.
In 1988, Senator Lloyd Bentsen eviscerated Dan Quayle's attempt to compare himself with President Kennedy with his famous retort, "I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy." I bet even Dan Quayle knows that you do not have to have known President Lincoln to know the simple fact that George W. Bush is no Abraham Lincoln and never will be.