The President Appears Before the Commission
From William Katz and the New York Sun (No link as the whole paper's site is behind a registration wall! Screw you fella.) comes this transcript of the President's appearance before a Commission examining why we got into the War.
No, not that President, not that Commission, not that War.
Mr. Ben-Gorelick: Good evening, President Lincoln. The Select Commission on Gettysberg thanks you for taking time out from the Civil War to appear.
Lincoln: You're welcome, sir. I respect the commission.
Mr. B.: Before I get to the blunders at Gettysburg, sir, I must ask about the speech you just gave there dedicating the cemetery. This "Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth..." Do you have the...
Lincoln: I know it.
Mr.B.: I call your attention, sir, to paragraph three, where you state, "...that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause..." Do you recall that?
Lincoln: "...for which they gave the last full measure of devotion."
Mr. B.: What cause is that, sir?
Lincoln: Why, winning the war.
Mr. B.: No, that's not what I meant. We all want to win the war, and, of course, we honor the troops. But what's the cause? Let me be clear...
Lincoln: I wish you would be.
Mr.B.: Mr. Lincoln, you took us to war two years ago and said it was to save the union.
Lincoln: It still is.
Mr.B.: And yet - and I'll put this text in the record - there's not a single reference in this speech to saving the union.
Lincoln: It's implied.
Mr. B.: Not a single reference. Isn't it a fact that you said in the speech, "dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal"?
Lincoln: Yes, in the first sentence.
Mr. B.: And isn't it a fact that you say, and again I quote, "that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom..."?
Mr. B.: Isn't it a fact that you were referring to slavery?
Lincoln: Well, yes. But I also said, second paragraph, that they died, quote, "that that nation might live."
Mr. B.: Yes, but what nation, sir? Clearly, your real goal is to abolish slavery. You took us to war under false pretense, didn't you, sir?
Mr. B.: "...of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." Last line of the speech, Mr. President. Nothing about saving the union. This freedom thing is, perhaps, a kind of obsession with you, isn't it? Some would say it's a fever.
Lincoln: There are good reasons for this war.
Mr.B. "I hate slavery," you said in Peoria, Ill. in 1854, seven years before you became president. This is a crusade. You couldn't knock off slavery then, so you're trying it now.
Lincoln: Saving the union is my main goal.
Mr. B.: No, it's a talking point. Let's take a break.
Chris Matthews: This is Chris Matthews, playing "Hardball." The commission's on a break. I'm here with the Gettysburg widows - four women whose husbands died in the battle. Okay, not much time. What'd you think of the president?
Mr. M.: You other two agree?
Mr. M.: Why?
Mary: Can I answer, Chris?
Mr. M.: Sure, Mary.
Mary: He just sits there and lies. He wears this silly hat. He grows this beard to look presidential...
Mr. M.: It's all image these days.
Mary: Right. But he ducked the questions. My husband didn't join the Army to fight slavery. He fought for the union. So Honest Abe, ha, goes to Gettysburg and gives a speech that lasts two minutes...
Mr. M.: Were you insulted? Elizabeth, quickly.
Elizabeth: Were we? He didn't mention a single soldier.
Ellen: Not one. And like Mr. Ben-Gorelick said, never talked about the union. You know what else?
Mr. M.: I've got 30 seconds.
Ellen: You know where he sat? He didn't sit with the families. He sat between that orator, Edward Everett, who gave a speech, and his flunkie, the secretary of state, William Seward. All cozy, protected by the politicians.
Mr. M.: Out of touch.
Mary: Terribly out.
Mr.M.: My gut tells me this guy's going down in the 1864 election. Back to the hearings.
Mr. B.: Mr. Lincoln, isn't it a fact that you also said in your speech that the men who died consecrated that cemetery, and I quote, "far above our poor power to add or detract"? Did you use those words, sir?
Lincoln: I did.
Mr. B.: Aren't you passing the buck?
Mr. B.: You're president of America. Isn't it your job to add or detract?
Lincoln: Well, in some matters...
Mr. B.: Presidents add or detract all the time. Isn't it a fact that Thomas Jefferson added Louisiana, and James Polk added Texas?
Lincoln: It was a spiritual reference.
Mr. B.: Like your "under God" phrase?
Mr.B: Doesn't that confirm the charge that you're a religious zealot, seeking to impose your views on the nation?
Lincoln: I do think this country exists under God.
Mr. B.: You may be in violation of the First Amendment, and might need counsel. I'll consult with my colleagues. We'll take a break.
Mr. M.: Chris Matthews back. More "Hardball." Wow. Gettysburg widows, what'd you think of that?
Clara: I'm scared to death. He thinks he's God.
Elizabeth: It's where he comes from - the sticks out there in Illinois. They're like that.
Mr. M.: You believe he's on a religious mission?
Mary: He pretty much admitted it.