Media and Academia, Historical Illiterates du Jour
To show how foolishly hyperbolic the Old Media and the ignorati in our universities are, the Associated Press issued a dire report that breathlessly informed us all that Barack Obama is facing a "nation in crisis" and it's all "just like Lincoln and FDR." The AP even gets an historically illiterate university professor to sonorously declare how Obama is "one step away" from Lincoln and FDR. But a review of our nation's real history shows that the America Obama will inherit is in nowhere near the state of crisis that Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt had to deal with. But, in the end, this isn't about real reporting or true historiography but about pumping Obama up and trying to shoehorn him in among what are considered by many our greatest presidents before he's even taken office.
The absurd hyperbole and wild stretching of the historical record to give gravity to Obama's reign is transparent for its effort to force readers into imagining that Obama should be given a mandate to do anything he wants. I'd suggest that the reason this foolish overestimate of our state of national "crisis" is being ladled out to an unsuspecting public is because the AP realizes that Obama did not get a mandate vote and the AP fears that Obama might face more resistance than it would like to his starkly socialist policy proscriptions. So, the AP is trying its best to break down those barriers beforehand.
This idiotic piece tries its best to claim that Obama is "just like" FDR and Lincoln and that he faces a day "just like" theirs. However, this is pure bunk. Lincoln was a far better man than FDR and Obama is likely NO FDR!
Fist we get the addled opinion of another AP "expert." This time it is the blather of Terry Sullivan, associate professor of political science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He sternly tells us that the nation is in crisis mode... "just like."
"With two wars and an economic crisis, this is one step away from what Lincoln or FDR faced." The question is 'Which direction is the nation going to go?'"
This is a ridiculous assessment. The wars we face now are nowhere NEAR as intense as the ones Lincoln and FDR contended with. Lincoln faced a war where more Americans died than in all our other wars combined. 650,000 Americans perished as a result of the War Between the States -- in today's numbers that's an equivalent population percentage to nearly 6 million Americans killed! FDR faced a war where 291,557 Americans died. And what do we have in Iraq? Less than five thousand casualties in five years. Yes it's a horrible thing to lose a single soldier, but to say the Civil War and WWII are equivalent to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is simply ridiculous.
Even more to the point Lincoln and FDR faced war as it grew, became furious and at last nearly ended before they were done on this earth. Both presidents had to lead these hard fought conflicts and only left the mopping up for their successors. Obama comes to office with the efforts of better men having about finished the conflicts in the most direct terms. He will but mop up if he does things right. If things get worse, it will be because of his failures, not because of that of his predecessors.
Further, the national sacrifice that we have made in today's war on terror has barely been a blip on the radar of most American citizens compared to what the nation sacrificed during the Civil War and WWII. Even socially we cannot make the Civil War and WWII equivalent to today.
Yes, Obama will inherit a war era. Absolutely, the clash of cultures between the west and the evils of Islam is supremely volatile. Yes it is a serious and important war that he will probably make worse with his childish notions of "diplomacy." But even at that the situations he will inherit are nowhere near the levels of Lincoln and FDR's crises. Obama can thank George W. Bush for that, too.
Additionally, the economic crisis that Obama faces, while again serious, is nowhere near the level of the Great Depression. Unemployment was in the high teens when FDR entered office and advanced to the middle 20s as a result of his disastrous economic policies. Throughout his four terms the economy was in dire straights. For his part, the Civil War caused high inflation during Lincoln's two terms and the country was constantly in fear of economic collapse. If it weren't for the great efforts of Lincoln's cabinet members, most especially Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase, the economy would have been even worse.
Today, however, Obama finds around 6% unemployment and an economy that is still fairly strong despite the pressures upon it. Obam will also find no inflation, deflation, stagflation or any other-flation for that matter. This is hardly a crisis in comparison.
Then the AP piece wastes our time with discussions of what FDR and Lincoln did during their transition times. I say it is a waste of time because thus far Obama has had a transition time of precisely 5 days so there is NOTHING whatever to compare historical transitions and Obama's to! But there is a reason AP goes on and on with this pointless discussion. They intend to prop up Obama by associating him with historically great and burdened presidents to suggest that Obama is "just like" them.
After the historical meandering, AP asks us a suggestive, "Sound familiar?" To that we have to say a firm and informed "no." What FDR and Lincoln faced only resembles the world that Obama will face in the remotest of ways. Of course we all have to admit that Obama may take his place as a great president. Who can say what the future holds? No one, of course. But we can say what the past held and with that we can surely say that the AP is silly to try and use the historical record of Lincoln and FDR as an example of Obama's.
But, then, we'd be looking at the actual historical record and not trying to misuse it to pump up the currently non-existent record of the AP's messiah, now, wouldn't we?