The eternally breathless and utterly silly Peggy Noonan attacks Obama’s column on Lincoln
What’s wrong with them? That’s what I’m thinking more and more as I watch the news from Washington.
A few weeks ago it was the senators who announced the judicial compromise. There is nothing wrong with compromise and nothing wrong with announcements, but the senators who spoke referred to themselves with such flights of vanity and conceit–we’re so brave, so farsighted, so high-minded–that it was embarrassing. They patted themselves on the back so hard they looked like a bevy of big breasted pigeons in a mass wing-flap. Little grey feathers and bits of corn came through my TV screen, and I had to sweep up when they were done.
This week comes the previously careful Sen. Barack Obama, flapping his wings in Time magazine and explaining that he’s a lot like Abraham Lincoln, only sort of better. “In Lincoln’s rise from poverty, his ultimate mastery of language and law, his capacity to overcome personal loss and remain determined in the face of repeated defeat–in all this he reminded me not just of my own struggles.”
Oh. So that’s what Lincoln’s for. Actually Lincoln’s life is a lot like Mr. Obama’s. Lincoln came from a lean-to in the backwoods. His mother died when he was 9. The Lincolns had no money, no standing. Lincoln educated himself, reading law on his own, working as a field hand, a store clerk and a raft hand on the Mississippi. He also split some rails. He entered politics, knew more defeat than victory, and went on to lead the nation through its greatest trauma, the Civil War, and past its greatest sin, slavery.
Barack Obama, the son of two University of Hawaii students, went to Columbia and Harvard Law after attending a private academy that taught the children of the Hawaiian royal family. He made his name in politics as an aggressive Chicago vote hustler in Bill Clinton’s first campaign for the presidency.
You see the similarities.
While Obama didn’t grow up in desperate poverty, he certainly didn’t grow up wealthy and priviliged as Noonan is trying to say in the above, he was able to attend Columbia and Harvard because he was an excellent students. His grandparents, who raised him after his early childhood were employed as a furniture salesman and in a bank and lived in a small apartment.
But more to the point is the whole context:
In Lincoln’s rise from poverty, his ultimate mastery of language and law, his capacity to overcome personal loss and remain determined in the face of repeated defeat–in all this, he reminded me not just of my own struggles. He also reminded me of a larger, fundamental element of American life–the enduring belief that we can constantly remake ourselves to fit our larger dreams.
Obama’s struggles include losing a father he never really knew, but also came from modest means and struggled as a person with a very uncommon background with no one to really relate and in fact, he says Lincoln’s background is even more improbable. It isn’t written as an exact comparison and only and idiot would take it that way. All of which explains her drivel.
Unlike most of the people who populate the US Senate, the House and the Presidency, Obama is an outlier, he didn’t come from a powerful family with a political background, or incredible wealth, and he didn’t get in to college on a legacy admission–he got in on merit. And for those of us who grew up spoonfed on Lincoln in Central Illinois, it is that characteristic one learns to respect the most. Lincoln was that guy who wasn’t supposed to succeed and yet he did. Barack Obama wasn’t supposed to achieve what he has, but he has. Trying to belittle him as just another Senator from a family of privilege and power or comparing his accomplishments to the President who depended on legacy admissions and connections simply shows how completely out of touch with reality Peggy Noonan is.