The joke may be on President Barack Obama. One of his first “house cleaning” chores was to order the removal from the White House Oval Office of the bust of Winston Churchill, a temporary gift from Britain in the wake of 9/11, and to replace it in that same spot with one of Abraham Lincoln. After all, didn’t Lincoln oversee a calamitous Civil War to free the slaves? One wonders just how well versed Obama is in the speeches of one of his political heroes. Here is an excerpt from a Lincoln speech, cited in Judge Andrew Napolitano’s icon-dissolving book on Lincoln, Dredd Scott‘s Revenge, from a debate with Stephen A. Douglas in Illinois in September 1858:
“I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races — that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people, and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And in as much as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.”*
That is just one of many revealing quotations from Lincoln’s written record on the issue of slavery. The evidence has been available to scholars for decades. Napolitano’s book dissects Lincoln’s role in empowering the federal government to override the Constitution and to consciously misinterpret especially the commerce and general welfare clauses in it to excuse its intervention in the economy and to reduce the scope of individual liberty. (See also Napolitano’s remarks on the Department of Homeland Security memo of April 7.)
Lincoln’s chief motivation for prosecuting the Civil War was to preserve the Union, not to free the slaves. The obvious evil of slavery is not the subject here. We have little to thank Lincoln for. He endorsed the country’s first income tax and the first military draft, and suspended habeas corpus. These were precedent-setting exercises of government power to confiscate wealth and life, in pursuit of a “noble cause,” emulated later by his successors in office and certainly countenanced by Congress in pursuit of causes arguably less “noble.”
Countless other Americans at the time desired to abolish slavery and enlisted in the army and navy for that reason, or were involved in the abolitionist movement, but Lincoln’s motivation was highly ambivalent. The myth surrounding Lincoln, one that has been propagated in textbooks for over a century, that he regarded slavery as a moral abomination and fought a war to eradicate it, is no less a myth than the one surrounding Franklin D. Roosevelt, that he saved the country from the alleged excesses of unregulated capitalism. Of course, Obama also admires FDR.
Does Obama value Lincoln for the slavery issue, or for Lincoln’s wholesale violations of the Constitution and the ensuing, steady diminution of freedom? If he reveres Lincoln as an emancipator, then he is a posturing fool. If he reveres him as a symbol of a successful usurpation of Constitutional limitations in the guise of “liberation,” then he is slyer than most critics have credited him for being.
On the other hand, Obama might have chucked Churchill out because he was a reproach, in that he spoke eloquently against dictators and men who pursued power for the sake of power and had a more contentious political career. Perhaps Obama is better versed in Churchill’s speeches than he is in Lincoln’s. Or, it may have something to do with Churchill’s suppression of the Mau Mau terrorism in colonial Kenya, when Obama’s grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, was jailed on suspicion of being a Mau Mau subversive. Which, if true, suggests that Obama approves of terrorism and can boast of having a terrorist sympathizer for a relative.
One can even score Churchill for his early praise of Hitler and Mussolini long before World War II. He repudiated and withdrew that praise when he grasped the nature of their tyrannies. Obama’s praise is silent. For example, under the pretence of not wanting to “meddle” in the Iranian election turmoil, his remarks have been tepid and reluctant. How can he criticize an authoritarian soul-mate, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for having won a rigged election? He and the Democratic Congress have a demonstrable affinity for fascism and are gathering to themselves unprecedented political power over virtually every aspect of American life. Everything — the truth behind the Lincoln and FDR myths and the myth that Obama loves this country and is only trying to save it by emulating his predecessors — is buried beneath the excelsior of irrelevancies and inconsequentials.
(The bust itself, by Sir Jacob Epstein, is an artistic malignity. Churchill’s features are barely discernible through a leprous percolation of bumps and swellings, leading one to imagine the work was rescued just in time from a blaze, damaged but still intact. But it is doubtful that Obama’s esthetic sense was so offended by the bust that he decided to rid the Oval Office of it.)
In his “The Lights are Going Out” speech of October, 1938, broadcast to the United States, in which he discusses the triumphs of Hitler in Europe, and the victories of fascist Italy and Spain, Churchill had this to say about dictators:
“You see these dictators on their pedestals, surrounded by the bayonets of their soldiers and the truncheons of their police. On all sides they are guarded by masses of armed men, cannons, airplanes, fortifications, and the like — they boast and vaunt themselves before the world, yet in their hearts there is unspoken fear. They are afraid of words and thoughts: words spoken abroad, thoughts stirring at home — all the more powerful because forbidden — terrify them. A little mouse of thought appears in the room, and even the mightiest of potentates are thrown into panic. They make frantic efforts to bar out thoughts and words; they are afraid of the workings of the human mind. Cannons, airplanes, they can manufacture in large quantities; but how are they to quell the natural promptings of human nature, which after all these centuries of trial and progress has inherited a whole armory of potent and indestructible knowledge?”**
In the “A Hush over Europe,“ August 1939 speech, also broadcast to the U.S., he noted:
“One thing has struck me as very strange, and that is the resurgence of the one-man power after all these centuries of experience and progress. It is curious how the English-speaking peoples have always had this horror of one-man power. They are quite ready to follow a leader for a time, as long as he is serviceable to them; but the idea of handing themselves over, lock, stock and barrel, body and soul, to one man, and worshipping him as if he were an idol — that has always been odious to the whole theme and nature of our civilization. The architects of the American Constitution were as careful as those who shaped the British Constitution to guard against the whole life and fortunes, and all the laws and freedom of the nation, being placed in the hands of a tyrant.” [Italics mine.]
Obama’s Cairo speech was his “Munich” gesture. The West, he said, is not at war with Islam. The difference between Neville Chamberlain’s capitulation and Obama’s, however, is that Chamberlain believed that Hitler’s words, promises and signature on a sheet of paper would bring “peace in our time.” It is unlikely he saw no radical distinction between Britain and totalitarian Nazi Germany. He simply and disastrously believed that evil was good at its word, that it saw no benefit in war, and that it had exhausted its ambition for conquest and expropriation.
Obama clearly makes no such distinction, nor will he ever make it. Individual rights, liberty, freedom, the rule of law, the sanctity of contract, private property, freedom of speech — these he is dedicated to trampling and extinguishing, so he could see no difference between them and the abject selflessness required of and demanded by Islam. He is envious of anyone who holds absolute power elsewhere in the world — King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, to name a few — and has a vested interest in Americans “handing themselves over, lock, stock and barrel, body and soul, to one man, and worshipping him as if he were an idol.” Has he not managed to achieve that goal among his supporters and the news media?
Those to whom he should show respect, he slights. Those whom he should slight, he gushes over and establishes a grinning rapport with. Those whom he should be wary of — such as the growing portion of the electorate that was never enamored of his alleged charisma and never dazzled by his populist rhetoric, together with those of his supporters who are having second thoughts about him — he is oblivious to, or told by his staff and advisors are merely disaffected with his programs and policies and can be ignored.
The worst one can say about Churchill is that his record is spotty on the issue of totalitarians. He was not in a commanding position when FDR made Stalin and Soviet Russia allies to fight Nazi Germany. Speaking in 1921, Churchill had this to say about Lenin, whom he was never tempted to praise, and the totalitarian slaughter being revealed in the West:
“He was told that private property existed as the reward of human toil and thrift. He did not believe it. He killed many thousands of people with whom he disagreed, and caused the deaths of many thousands more, in order to find out the truth of that proposition before he came to the conclusion that they were right and he was wrong….Monsieur Lenin then turned his attention to the currency, and, seeing machines making bank notes, he had a flash of pure Communistic genius. He thought that all he had to do to solve the social problem was to keep the machine going as fast as possible. He thought he had thus found a way of making everybody rich, and paying every workman several thousands a year. He destroyed the currency of Russia….He has not yet started on the Ten Commandments — ‘Thou shall not steal,’ and ‘Thou shall do no murder’….As we watch this terrible panorama of Russian misery, let us abstract a moral which should be a guidance and an aid. Russia cannot save herself by her exertion, but she may at least save other nations by her example. The lesson from Russia, writ in glaring letters, is the utter failure of this Socialist and Communistic theory, and the ruin which it brings to those subjected to its cruel yoke.”
The lesson has not been lost on Obama and the Democratic Congress. It is precisely that yoke they are fitting over the necks of Americans. Hopefully, they will be voted out of power in the next general election, or perhaps checkmated in the next round of Congressional contests. But one may be sure of this: that should that happen, he and Congress will do as much damage to this country as they can before vacating the halls and committee rooms of power. Even after the votes have been counted and the winner has been announced, they will try to take what is left of the country with them. The legislation they are hastily writing and enacting now is intended for perpetuity. It will take some kind of revolution to cause its permanent repeal, and the repeal of all such legislation that preceded it.
In her novel Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand dramatized the workings of the death premise. This point cannot be over-emphasized. If they cannot live to exercise their power, if they cannot reap the benefits of usurpation, if they cannot take satisfaction in the spectacle of men blindly taking orders and in forcing the recalcitrant to act against their will, they will want the country to die. That is, as well and after all, the jihadist way. Obama and his allies wish Americans to submit, or else perish as a free people. In that respect, they share the goals and means of the Islamists.
Which returns us to 9/11, and Tony Blair presenting President Bush with the Churchill bust, which Obama understandably did not want.
*Dredd Scott’s Revenge: A Legal History of Race and Freedom in America, by Judge Andrew Napolitano. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2009. P. 89.
**All Churchill quotations are from Never Give In! The Best of Winston Churchill’s Speeches, selected by his grandson, Winston S. Churchill. New York: Hyperion, 2003.