Monday, November 18, 2013

How much of today’s political rhetoric will someday be apologized for as silly?

It will be 150 years this week since Abraham Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address – his brief speech at the battlefield-turned-cemetery that helped to put the Civil War into a high, moral context – rather than just a bloodbath.
Significance not immediately realized

Yet there were those who disparaged Lincoln during his lifetime. He truly was a person who could never have comprehended the glory with which his image is now draped, based on anything that happened during his lifetime.

EARLIER THIS MONTH, the Harrisburg Patriot-News newspaper in Pennsylvania went so far as to apologize for what its predecessor (the Patriot & Union newspaper) wrote about the speech when it occurred.

The Patriot-News “regrets the error” that the Patriot & Union wrote that Lincoln made “silly remarks” that were motivated by partisan politics.

“Our predecessors, perhaps under the influence of partisanship, or of strong drink, as was common in the profession at the time,” were mistaken in their coverage, the 21st Century take of the Harrisburg-based newspaper wrote.

Now I’m not about to say whether or not a reporter-type of the past was intoxicated (anything’s possible). Nor am I going to rant about how this correction was self-serving and did nothing more than to get a local paper some national attention.

Reason for recent presidential criticism
BUT WHEN I learned of this editorial, it couldn’t help but make me think of our modern-day situation. One in which our current president gets all the abuse the ideologues think he is worthy of, and where anyone who doesn’t share in their rancid rhetoric gets decried as somehow being “un-American.”

And with the fact that the Affordable Care Act’s implementation isn’t going smoothly, there are those who are willing to pile on to the president as well.

It should not be any surprise that the president’s approval rating isn’t all that high these days (40 percent approval rating, according to the Gallup Organization, with 53 percent disapproving of Obama’s performance).

There’s also a recent Gallup poll that says only 28 percent of people questioned think Obama will be remembered as an “outstanding” or “above average” president, with 31 percent saying he’ll be “average” and 40 percent saying he’ll be remembered as “below average/poor.” That's far from the worst -- both Presidents Bush are thought of less-highly, as are former presidents Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon.

An impression from JFK's own time
THAT STUDY FOUND that John F. Kennedy (who this week will have been deceased for 50 years – too many morbid “anniversaries” in coming days) is regarded the most-highly in history amongst recent presidents.

Although I can recall many studies throughout the years that show Kennedy’s legacy approval rating, so to speak, bouncing up-and-down depending on the circumstances.

My point being that these things are flexible. They’re alterable. Nothing is carved in stone.

I wonder what it will be like when much of the rhetoric we hear and read about Obama these days will sound ridiculously dated, or just ridiculous.

WE PROBABLY SHOULD remember that much of the trash-talk Lincoln faced was just as over-the-top as what Obama gets these days – particularly from the ranks of trash-talk radio that seeks to make money by appealing to their Tea Party-type listeners.

Apology owed, although not likely to ever come
It has been eight years since I visited the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill., and my most vivid memory was of the exhibit devoted to the nasty rhetoric. Literally getting to read the libelous stories and commentary and hearing some of the slurs read aloud.

There are a lot more publications than the Patriot-News that probably owe Lincoln’s legacy an apology. How many publications are going to have their future incarnations issuing apologies to Obama (probably long after he’s departed this Earth) for the things they wrote, or allowed to be said without challenging them?

Will they be able to get away with just an apology – that will come across as self-serving in the future as the one Lincoln got earlier this month?


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