Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen: Lincoln ... What Would He Say to Us Today

Roundup: Media's Take

... In a present-day conversation with Lincoln, if given the chance to observe modern political discourse, he would, of course, find much of it to be disconcerting. The violent disagreements between political opponents today, with all the negativity of campaigning, the accusations and counteraccusations, the chicanery, and the occasional outright fraud, would disturb him, but probably not surprise him in the least. It has, unfortunately, been part and parcel of our political discourse since the first days of the Republic and was rampant in his time as well. At about the time he first served as a congressman, one senator literally drew a pistol and threatened a colleague during a debate on the Senate floor. Shortly before the war, a congressman nearly beat a senator to death with a cane while the victim sat at his desk on the Senate floor.

Mudslinging was a well-known term in Lincoln's world and was, at times, literally true, given the dirt streets liberally covered with horse droppings. Bribery was out of control and openly shameless.

Cost overruns on military contracts were more absurd then than now. Even in his own house, there was political scandal when his wife went on what can only be described as an outrageous shopping spree to redecorate the White House. So then, as now, there was nothing new when it came to dirty politics, negativity, and scandal.

But on the other side of the ledger, the failure to have an open acknowledgement of the place of God in both personal and public lives would be a silence he would find truly disturbing. The modern term multiculturalism was something he would have embraced when it came to religious tolerance and acceptance. At a time when Catholicism was viewed with deep suspicion, (and viciously attacked in the press by Thomas Nast, the famed political cartoonist of his day) Lincoln spoke out for the rights of Irish Catholics and for Jews, and he set the remarkable precedent of giving legal protection to the Quakers by exempting them from military service.

In a conversation with us today, he would, without doubt, ask us what is wrong with acknowledging God in our public discourse and respecting those who do believe. And he would suggest gently that maybe a little more humility and tolerance would be in order when God is mentioned in the public square, classrooms, and government offices....
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