Daniel Day-Lewis' masterful portrayal of Abraham Lincoln in the new Steven Spielberg movie gives us a good look at presidential politicking at its best.
Though burdened by Civil War and a fractured Congress, Lincoln is intensely focused on gathering the bipartisan votes needed to pass the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which would abolish slavery. The disciplined chief executive was willing to sacrifice personal popularity in order pass the amendment during a critical hour in our nation's history.
With the skills of a savvy politician and compassionate leader, the iconic 16th president earned heroic names such as Father Abraham and "lawgiver" to African Americans, and a "Masterpiece of God" sent to save the Union by others. Lincoln was definitely a uniter with exceptional leadership ability.
And then there's Barack Obama.
So far after one term, the legacy of this president is that his spend-happy administration has added nearly $5 trillion to the national debt. To satisfy that deficit every man, woman and child in America owes $48,700, not including the unfunded liabilities of Social Security and Medicare, which drives it up to $189,000.
Just as America faced a day of reckoning with the slavery issue that led to a bloody civil war 150 years ago, our nation today is headed for a rude awakening unless a strong leader fights to get Washington spending under control.
The Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of the Congress, recently reported that "that absent policy changes, the federal government continues to face an unsustainable fiscal path." With another bitter struggle looming between the Congress and Obama over the national budget, this is not optimistic news.
As for the Washington party scene, Mary Todd Lincoln notes to her husband in the movie on the eve of his second inauguration that he doesn't care much about galas.
"Not much but they're a necessary hindrance," Lincoln responds. He later tells Mrs. Lincoln not to spend "too much money on flubdubs" for his inauguration.
In 2009, the total cost of Obama's first inauguration was $170 million. This time the overall tab will be less, but wouldn't it serve as a nice example to all Americans if Obama cut out a lot of the "flubdub" we're seeing in today's lavish inaugural events and threw some of that big money at the national debt?
It might delay for a bit the criticism we're hearing about "King Obama" and his "Imperial presidency."
By Jim Zbick