It’s not exactly a secret that President Obama looks to Abraham Lincoln as a political hero. When Obama was inaugurated, he used Lincoln’s Bible, and when it came time to place items of significance in the Oval Office, Obama chose a Lincoln bust and the Emancipation Proclamation.
With this in mind, on the anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, the right has chosen an odd story to complain about.
Fox News is manufacturing outrage over Obama’s decision not to attend the commemoration ceremony for the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address and baselessly speculating that Obama’s resentment over the nation’s unfinished business “in bringing the country and its races together” may be the cause. […]Fox News’s Brian Kilmeade discussed with Wall Street Journal columnist Daniel Henninger whether it is “inappropriate for our president to bypass” the commemoration ceremony of the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address during the November 19 edition of Fox & Friends. At one point Kilmeade asked whether Henninger thought Obama was refusing to attend because “after that address and after the Civil War we still weren’t a perfect union? We still had to wait for the Civil Rights Act and so many – the integration of schools, Brown vs. the Board of Education?” Henninger replied, “I think probably that President Obama does think the unfinished business remains unfinished in bringing the country and its races together.”
It’s worth noting that Fox isn’t the only one raising a fuss – conservative outlets have been complaining about Obama “snubbing” Gettysburg for months.
There are, however, some angles to this the right has overlooked. First, there have been 28 presidents since Lincoln, and 27 of them did not commemorate the anniversaries of the Gettysburg Address – and this includes Reagan, who did nothing on the 125th anniversary, and never visited Gettysburg as president. (The exception was William Howard Taft.) Obama, in other words, is doing largely what nearly all of his predecessors have done without controversy.
Second, I’m trying to imagine the uproar from some of these same conservative critics if Obama did go to Gettysburg to mark the occasion today. We can all probably imagine the predictable rhetoric: Obama thinks he’s Lincoln! The arrogance! Why is he trying to politicize a cemetery? This must have something to do with distracting us from the health care website! And maybe Benghazi!
Making matters slight worse is, well, this.
President Obama’s recitation of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is sparking hysteria from the right-wing media who slammed the president for omitting the phrase “under God.”
The right’s apoplexy on this was extremely broad – National Review, Breitbart, Daily Caller, Drudge, and others ran furious pieces expressing outrage that Obama had the nerve to omit the phrase “under God” from his recent recitation of the Gettysburg Address. Rush Limbaugh speculated that the president did this on purpose to “get a rise out of conservatives.”
The truth is less provocative. Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns had a variety of prominent figures – including all five living presidents – to read portions of the Address for a video. Burns relied on the text of the first draft of the speech – which did not include the words “under God.”
In other words, the right became apoplectic about Obama not using a phrase Lincoln didn’t write.
Conservative media has struggled badly of late, with a list of ignominious failures too long to list. Today does little to improve its reputation.