I was sitting at my desk late this morning, trying to decide when to take lunch, when an tall, lanky, and unexpected visitor sat down and scowled at me.
“May I help you?” I asked him. He leaned forward and extended a long arm to shake my hand.
“I need to talk to someone” he said, “I am exceptionally agitated and I think you may be able to assist me in recovering my composure, prior to the many unpleasant actions I am presently contemplating..”
“You have me at a disadvantage” I answered to the thin yet powerful man before me, “I apologize for anything I may have done to anger you, but I confess I am at a loss-”
The man stopped me with an upraised hand and a kinder expression.
“My apologies, sir. I did not mean to imply that you were the cause of my present discomfiture. It is the man who now holds my job and makes a mockery of my home and name … and on my birthday yet!”
Without thinking, I blurted “Strange, it’s Lincoln’s birthday today, and a tall thin strong guy like you could pass for –”
He stopped me again, this time with a chuckle, and an uncanny thought caught me as he spoke:
“Well, I have lost many things over time, but I should like to keep my own name, sir.
“Mister President?” I ventured.
Abe Lincoln shrugged. “I suppose I may still claim the honorific, though it has been a long time since I performed the office.
“Although the present occupant is certainly working to diminish the honor in that title.”
“So you are not a fan of President Obama?” I inquired.
“Not in the slightest” said Lincoln. “There is always room for gentlemen to disagree on points and in opinion, but the man is disparagement incarnate. His efforts are a slur upon the profession of law, the White House, the great state of Illinois, and against his people."
“Which efforts specifically?”, I asked Mister Lincoln.
“Where has he not been so?” countered Lincoln. “Every one of his gestures has been in connivance of election or contempt of his duty. He is willing to lay more taxes on people already burdened beyond what they can carry, he sees no sin in saying something to one man to gain his favor, and something else at another time, with no commitment to keep his word to anyone at all.”
“That makes him an ordinary politician, so far”, I suggested.
““But he promised to be different” countered Lincoln. “Remember ‘post-partisanship’? Remember when he wanted to be ‘everyone’s president’? I said it myself long ago: If once you forfeit the confidence of your fellow-citizens, you can never regain their respect and esteem.” .
“So you’re angry at President Obama” I said, in my usual slow grasp of the obvious.
“Well, I am also hungry. If you do not mind, could we go to Kim Son?” asked Lincoln. “I seldom get to try oriental food, but I have found I am fond of Dim Sum.”
So I and the sixteenth President of the United States, both of us wearing chinos and golf shirts, walked over to the Asian restaurant and enjoyed a lunch buffet which included Sushi, Dim Sum, and a variety of soups and noodles, finishing with sweetened tofu for dessert. After a time, Lincoln leaned back in his seat and smiled.
“I have eaten more in this meal than I usually eat in a day,” he said. “I was going to remark on the fact that despite being a foot shorter than me, you have me outdone in weight, but with food like this available, anyone would have to resist that temptation to eat too well.”.
I am a little sensitive to comments about my weight, and I did not want Mr. Lincoln to observe how many people maneged to keep their weight down, so I redirected our conversation to the original topic.
“When you first arrived sir, you mentioned that you thought I might be able to assist you with regard to our current President.”
Lincoln nodded somberly.
“He is an unprepared man, and surrounded by poor counsel.” opined Lincoln. “I fear what sort of course he will set under such conditions.”
“To be fair,” I said, “A lot historians say that your cabinet and advisers, especially your generals, were similarly limited in their abilities.”
“But I could at least recognize a fool, and call him out for it” he said. “I could almost imagine that this Obama fellow seeks out inadequate men for his circle, in order that his own image may shine more brilliantly.
“I have seen it many times before.” finished Lincoln.
“So what can we do about it?” I asked. “Obama’s the President and he has the Congress backing him.”
“But he is wrong” said Lincoln flatly. “To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men. Where is the party of Conscience?”
“I think they’re on sabbatical” I answered. “The Republicans have not exactly been listening to the people, either.”
Lincoln became angry.
“ No man is good enough to govern another man without that other's consent” he asserted strongly. “What manner of country have we now, when the people have no voice in their own affairs, and whole generations may be consigned without even the pretense of true democracy?”
“Things are dicey right now with the economy, and Obama is playing on that.” I told Lincoln. “It started when housing started to get risky, the government forcing banks to offer loans to people who could not possibly pay them back, and banks getting greedy trying to play on the ‘everyone gets an easy mortgage’ theme.”
Lincoln sighed. “I warned people years ago about just this kind of thing.” Lincoln shook his head. “You may not believe it, but I once said, ‘let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another, but let him work diligently and build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence when built.’ As I recall, it was tough to help people understand even then.”
Lincoln’s eyes blazed as he continued. “I know this theme playing out now, we have surely seen it many times before, but you cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves. You cannot build character and courage by taking away a man's initiative and independence.
“As difficult as it may sound, you must let men succeed or fail on their own efforts. Government should even the field, so each man has his chance, but inevitably to cushion men is to cripple them.”
Lincoln stood to leave, and shook my hand.
“So, where next?” I asked him.
“The library, I should think.” answered Lincoln.
“Have you considered visiting President Obama yourself?” I suggested. “Surely you could help him see the mistakes he is making by confronting him directly.”
Lincoln’s shoulders shrank. “He will not see me. He only has time for his friends and flunkies. I saw someone dressed up as me acting out the ceremony of my birthday, though poorly done and a buffoon to play the part. I think it was Will Farrell, in which case I should be offended.”