Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Sunday, March 06, 2011

Obama's Second Inaugural Address

This week the President marked the 150th anniversary of a predecessor's words as the nation was falling into civil war. What Abraham Lincoln said then could well be a model for Barack Obama at his own second inaugural if and when he is reelected in a time of turmoil and division.

In praising the Great Emancipator for charting "a course to transcend our discord and bind the wounds of a severed country," Obama cited Lincoln's "unceasing belief and our enduring faith that we remain one Nation and one people, sharing a bond as Americans that will never break."

That bond is now being stretched thin as social hatreds and jealousies fuel bitter debates not only about the role of government and its size but the patriotism of those who disagree about budget deficits, public employees and their unions and every other issue that should be amenable to compromise and conciliation.

"We are not enemies, but friends," Lincoln said as he took the presidential oath. "We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."

These days the "better angels" are in hiding as Obama's would-be successors engage in what conservative George Will describes as "a process cluttered with careless, delusional, egomaniacal, spotlight-chasing candidates to whom the sensible American majority would never entrust a lemonade stand, much less nuclear weapons."

Current leader of the pack is ever-changeable Mitt Romney, now in New Hampshire touting an "Obama misery index" to persuade Tea Partiers that he can be as mindlessly negative as the candidates they elected last November.

Barack Obama may be far from another Lincoln, but the political pygmies who oppose him add to his stature by comparison. Those of us caught in the crossfire between them can only hope that the United States does not again become the Untied States, as they did a century and a half ago.

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