Wednesday, January 21, 2009
THE OBAMA-LINCOLN INAUGURAL TRAIN HOAX
I don't like to get political here on the ol' blog. That's for my blogging pal Jeff (though he recently encroached on my territory). Back to the comic books next time out.
You may have heard that President Obama traveled to his inauguration about a train, taking the route that fellow Illinoisan Abraham Lincoln took in 1861. I read it myself from these news sources -
Barack Obama arrived in Washington at the end of a whistle-stop train trip along the frigid mid-Atlantic seaboard that tracked Abraham Lincoln's historic route and brought the president-elect a step closer to inauguration.
Crowds are expected to gather at numerous spots, including overpasses, parking lots and commuter train stations, as Obama retraces the journey of Abraham Lincoln, who also rode to his inauguration on a train from Philadelphia.
Jan. 17: Tracing the train route Abraham Lincoln took nearly a century and a half ago, President-elect Barack Obama embarked on the final leg of his inaugural journey to the nation's capital.
Tracking Lincoln's historic path to Washington by riding a vintage railcar on his whistle-stop trip...
I was intrigued by the initial mentions because I knew he wasn't coming to my city of Cincinnati (as Lincoln had). Then I thought maybe he was taking the route of Lincoln's funeral train, which retraced the inaugural route, but bypassed Cincinnati (much to our umbrage, though we did send a delegation to Columbus). Upon further reading I learned that Obama was not doing the whole route. Then I realized he wasn't really doing the route at all.
Obama started in Philadelphia, which was the 21st of 24 stops for Lincoln [click map to enlarge]. Obama's train then went to Wilmington, Delaware to pick up Joe Biden before proceeding to Baltimore. Lincoln also went to Baltimore, but only after stopping in Harrisburg. Both Obama and Lincoln went from Baltimore to Washington. So, to say that Obama traced or tracked Lincoln's route is true in that both men went by train from Baltimore directly to Washington, having come previously from Philadelphia. Why not just as well compare him to Woodrow Wilson? I don't know the exact route, but I'm sure Wilson didn't walk from Princeton.
Maybe it's splitting hairs, but that's history, right? What draws my ire is the frenzy to compare Obama and Lincoln, sort of 'The Next Lincoln' or 'Liked Lincoln? You'll Love Obama!' The attempt to join his image in the public mind with that of the most revered and honored president in history is to further raise Obama beyond expectations that no human could hope to fill. To do so through obfuscation and omission is a fraud and a hoax.
The Wall Street Journal has a nice overview of the tradition of presidents, from Tippecanoe to Ike, traveling to their inauguration by train. But the Journal also chooses to focus on the Lincoln angle, while only touching on the better comparison, historically - FDR. FDR's train route, while starting in New York, actually did stop in Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore, in that order, ending in DC. A country in an economic crisis kicks out the blamed political party overwhelmingly in favor of the man who would save them all.
But FDR is out for the media because he connotes 'Big Government' for many, and while Obama believes government is a fixer of social ills, he doesn't want you to think he's in favor of 'Big Government'. What he calls having government "work smarter" or "better", others call government expansion. What he calls the government giving help, others might call government intrusion. Lincoln's politics, however, are amorphous. He's a uniter of a divided country, a releaser of sufferers from bondage...more than a man, an intangible.