Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Condi's Civil War

[Posted by Callimachus]

Condoleezza makes a comparison between the Iraq War and the American Civil War. As usual, nobody gets it. My newsroom editor's sarcastic reaction was, "So does that mean Robert E. Lee was a terrorist?" But that's typical.

Rice then offered a parallel between critics of the administration's Iraq policies and "people who thought it was a mistake to fight the Civil War (in this country) to its end and to insist that the emancipation of slaves would hold."

"I'm sure that there were people who said, 'why don't we get out of this now, take a peace with the South, but leave the South with slaves.' "

"Just because things are difficult, it does't mean that they are wrong or that you turn back," Rice told the magazine, which has a large audience among African-Americans.

And I suspect she knew who those "some people" were: The Democrats. You can get a lot of mileage out of comparing Bush's situation to Lincoln's, and evidently I do. It's about as useful as any such exercise: Not much, except in forcing people to rise above immediate political passions and think in terms of issues and ethics.

But the comparison Condi seems to be making here has more heft. The Democratic Party platform of 1864 makes interesting reading. The Democrats opposed Lincoln, who had an indifferent record in the state militia and had declined the opportunity to volunteer in the Mexican War, with professional soldier George B. McClellan. And they flanked him on the military side to push an explicitly "end-the-war-now" campaign:

Resolved, that this convention does explicitly declare, as the sense of the American people, that after four years of failure to restore the Union by the experiment of war, during which, under the pretence of military necessity, or war power higher than the Constitution, the Constitution itself has been disregarded in every part, and public liberty and private right alike trodden down, and the material prosperity of the country essentially impaired, justice, humanity, liberty, and the public welfare demand that immediate efforts be made for a cessation of hostilities, with a view to an ultimate convention of the States or other peaceable means, to the end that at the earliest practicable moment peace may be restored on the basis of the federal Union of the States.

The platform doesn't explicitly say "leave the South with slaves." That wasn't they way of political language, then or now. What it does say is "preserve ... the rights of the States unimpaired," which was 1860s poli-speak for the same thing. It also pointedly complains of "the administrative usurpation of extraordinary and dangerous powers not granted by the Constitution ...." Sound familiar? Even though CW isn't her specialty, I bet Condi has read it.

But of course, they also were supporting the troops -- in everything but pushing on to victory:

Resolved, that the sympathy of the Democratic party is heartily and earnestly extended to the soldiers of our army and the seamen of our navy, who are and have been in the field under the flag of their country; and, in the event of its attaining power, they will receive all the care, protection, and regard that the brave soldiers and sailors of the republic have so nobly earned.

It didn't work. Not only did Lincoln win, he outpolled McClellan among soldiers in the field, 119,754 votes to 34,291.

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