It is 150 years today that President Lincoln gave perhaps the most important, and brilliant speech he would ever give. A speech that defined the era, and solidified the ideals on which the United States was born. The Gettysburg Address is one that rings as true today as it did in November 1863.
Predictably, conservatives over the pond have used the anniversary as a platform to launch yet another misleading and absurd attack on the President. This new line of attack comes in two parts; both equally as absurd. Firstly, that the President “snubbed” the Gettysburg Address memorial at Gettysburg, and secondly, that the President omitted the words “under God” when reciting the Gettysburg Address earlier today. Both – as expected from this current crop of conservatives – are entirely misleading, and represent a complete lack of respect by those on the American Tea Party right who will use anything to concoct bullshit to aim at the President.
Nothing is sacred to the Tea Party conservatives. It seems that they have decided it is acceptable to abuse the memory of Gettysburg, in order to launch a cynical and misleading attack on the President, today. Let’s look at their two claims in a little more detail:
– “Stunning snub!” The hysteria couldn’t be more feigned and ridiculous. And not least because it’s entirely misleading. The President did not ‘snub’ the Gettysburg Address anniversary today. He just didn’t attend it. Like every other sitting President since Lincoln – with the exception of Taft – hasn’t attended a Gettysburg Address anniversary. This includes Kennedy in 1963, at the 100th anniversary. This includes conservative hero President Reagan who did not attend the 125th Gettysburg Anniversary. I have searched thoroughly and cannot locate any media outlet from the 125th anniversary, that feigns outrage over the “stunning snub” by President Reagan. Strange that.
We should also be keen to note that the President has quoted Lincoln, and paid tribute to Lincoln plenty of times in the past. Both of President Obama’s inaugural speeches mention Lincoln, he was sworn in on the Lincoln Bible and he consistently refers to Lincoln as his inspiration as President. This, in contrast to Republicans, who invited Ted Nugent to the State of the Union, despite Nugent having said:
“I’m beginning to wonder if it would have been best had the South won the Civil War.”
And then there’s the second claim:
This is just as ridiculous as the first, and used as nothing more than another cynical attempt to launch an ill thought out attack on the President:
“Of the five known manuscript copies of the Gettysburg Address, the Library of Congress has two. President Lincoln gave one of these to each of his two private secretaries, John Nicolay and John Hay. The other three copies of the Address were written by Lincoln for charitable purposes well after November 19.”
It is those three “well after” November 19th that contain the words “under God”. The two in the Library of Congress – one of which Lincoln brought to Gettysburg itself – given to Lincoln’s secretaries, do not include the words “under God”.
As part of a documentary, President Obama was today asked to read from the Nicolay copy. The Nicolay copy does not include the words “Under God”. Therefore, the President did not omit the words “under God” from the draft of the address. Lincoln did. The other three copies were used for fundraising purposes. The second written version of the address, is called the Hay draft, and was the draft handed personally to his secretary John Hay upon Lincoln’s return from Gettysburg. The first version, also not including the words “under God” is called the “Nicolay draft”. President Obama today, was asked specifically to read the Nicolay draft copy by the documentary crew – headed by the brilliant Ken Burns – filming it. This, he did. There was no snubbing.
It would be of great service to the increasingly Confederate-like Tea Party conservatives, if they read the words of the Gettysburg Address and worked to put them into practice. “…that all men are created equal”. As opposed to their own version of that statement of equality, that seems to consistently preclude gay people, women, the least wealthy, non-Christians, and anyone with a slightly darker skin tone. It would do conservatives great service to ponder the idea that all are created equal, rather than focusing entirely on the word “God”. And whilst they’re at it, perhaps stop following the President around with Confederate flags.
We will of course never know whether or not Lincoln said “under God” at Gettysburg. But if he did it certainly wasn’t in the drafts of the speech leading up to Gettysburg, and only appeared written down after the 19th, for charity purposes. Regardless, President Obama was specifically asked to read a specific draft of the address, for a documentary. This he did. To complain or to invent a scandal, is nothing more than to attempt to hijack the day, for political purposes from a regressive Republican Party that has absolutely no connection to its roots with the Republicans of Lincoln. Given that the US Tea Party right wing has attempted to hijack the Benghazi tragedy for political purposes, has shut down the government for political purposes, and consciously chosen to horrifically compare the Affordable Care Act to slavery, for political purposes… it is no surprise that they’re willing to abuse the memory President Lincoln and the solemnity of Gettysburg with equal contempt.