Fifty-seven times in American history the oath of office to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” has been administered to a president, most usually in a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
In the middle of the night Calvin Coolidge was sworn in by his father, a Vermont justice of the peace, by the light of an oil lamp. Lyndon Johnson took the oath in Air Force One on a Dallas airport runway as Jackie Kennedy watched wearing a suit stained with her late husband’s blood.
The first presidential inauguration I had the honor to attend on January 20, 1953, was that of Dwight D. Eisenhower of Kansas. His vice president was a young senator from California, Richard M. Nixon. At the time I was 15 years old, a newly appointed page in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The last inaugural I attended, as an elected member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Maryland, was on January 20, 1977, that of James Earl Carter, a peanut farmer from Georgia.
Today is Barack Obama’s big day, the start of his second term. But if his actions and demeanor since he narrowly won the 2012 election are any indication of what lies ahead, he has chosen to make this a rancorous, contentious, disturbing four years.
Obama claims his presidential hero (mine also) is Abraham Lincoln. Yet it was Lincoln who in June, 1858, warned us as a nation that: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” While Lincoln spoke of slavery, today the very economic and political survival of America is at stake. [adcode]
Union Not Division
Unlike Lincoln, President Obama seems determined to divide America.
As Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan wrote about Obama’s bitter attacks last week on Republicans and his opponents in general, the President seems to think: “No one has good faith but him. No one is sincere but him.”
One reasonably can think that this is the very moment for the president to try to unify our country, to unite Americans, not to foment dissention and bitterness.
Certainly Obama has no popular mandate for his arrogant “my way or the highway” or “I will not negotiate” attitude. He got 51.1% of the votes last November, the first president to be re-elected with less popular votes and less Electoral College votes than he got in his first term.
Mr. Obama barely retains the approval of a slim majority of Americans, 51%, according to a pre-inauguration poll by The New York Times and CBS News; that is down considerably from 62% soon after he took office in 2009.
Instead of preaching unity, President Obama has used the pre-inaugural period, as Peggy Noonan said, to show the “ depth of his disdain for the leaders of the other major party and, by inference, that party’s voters, which is to say more or less half the country.”
Abraham Lincoln has always been in vogue with me, ever since my Aunt Louise gave me a biography about him for my 7th birthday. I read and re-read it and decide to become a Republican, a lawyer and go into politics. But the current Spielberg movie, Lincoln, suddenly has made the Great Emancipator momentarily noticeable to an American public woefully ignorant about much of our history.
So learn from Honest Abe. Instead of causing national dissention, perhaps the cool, self-contained constitutional law professor from Hawaii, Indonesia, Harvard and Chicago should follow the example of Lincoln’s great Second Inaugural Address.
When Lincoln spoke on the rainy East Front of the Capitol, the unfinished Dome above him, his assassin John Wilkes Booth stood only yards away in the crowd. Forty-one days after delivering the address, the president would be dead.
No doubt that day many expected a triumphant president would speak of the terrible war’s end and the coming Union victory, but Lincoln knew that with more than 600,000 dead, what was needed was a new era of reconciliation.
Lincoln kept it short, only 701 words, the second shortest of all such inaugural remarks, but as Lincoln scholar C.A. Tripp noted, he “surprised his audience by steeping his address in religious language…he invoked religion as a balm for a nation deeply divided.”
Lincoln closed his short speech with the immortal words of reconciliation and healing that are carved in the walls of the Lincoln Memorial in the nation’s capital, setting the tone for his plan for the nation’s Reconstruction.
With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.
Abraham Lincoln died, but his powerful words live on.
Four years ago almost to this day, I wrote an editorial entitled: “We Wish the New President and Our Nation Well.”
At that time, then president-elect Obama offered his opinion that “what’s required is a new declaration of independence — from ideology and small thinking, prejudice and bigotry.”
In the 2008 campaign the largely unknown Obama preached unity and hope. But we knew very little about what Mr. Obama’s true political philosophy might be.
Now, after four years I think we can conclude that this president does indeed have an ideology all his own; a mixture of arrogance, disregard for the rule of law, an ultra- Keynesianism that ignores debt and deficits and policies that dabble in both socialism and fascism.
Is this un-America – or is this the New America?
I repeat what I said four years ago: We wish President Barack Obama well. In doing so we are wishing a brighter future for our troubled country and the world beyond. May God bless him and America.
Bob Bauman Chairman, Freedom Alliance
P.S. If you’re not happy with the way things are going… if you think the Federal Reserve is destroying the dollar… if you recognize the Obama Administration as being the least transparent in D.C.’s history… and that Wall Street will never change its greedy, policy manipulating ways – then Freedom Alliance is for you. For more on this and how to protect yourself in this brave new world, click here.
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