On December 8, I was interviewed by Jennifer Skalka, Editor of the Hotline Blog of the National Journal on the fascinating linkage between President-Elect Obama and Abraham Lincoln.

Q: Many comparisons have been made between Barack Obama and Abraham Lincoln. From their long, lanky physiques to their Illinois roots to their lawyer backgrounds to the great, sweeping challenges Lincoln faced and Obama will tackle in the near future. As Obama assembles a ‘Team of Rivals’ Cabinet modeled on Lincoln’s advisers, which of these many linkages are valid? And are there other connections between the two men that you see that we in the media might be missing?

A: The focus on Barack Obama’s intention to appoint a “Team of Rivals” is valid in so far as it lifts up Obama’s desire to emulate the political spirit of Abraham Lincoln. But Lincoln, it appears, went even further. In his first cabinet he appointed four former Democrats.

Apart from the “Team of Rivals,” the press has largely focused on Obama’s invocation of Lincoln’s words. Many recent politicians have quoted Lincoln in campaign speeches. In reading Obama’s “The Audacity of Hope,” however, published in 2006, I am struck by how deeply Obama has immersed himself in Lincoln’s ideas. In discussing the Constitution, Obama says, “I’m left then with Lincoln, who like no man before or since understood both the deliberative function of our democracy and the limits of such deliberation.”

What has not been mentioned in the many comparisons of the men are the ways, much as Lincoln did, that Obama understands the relationship between politics and religion. Lincoln, who never joined a church, offered in his Second Inaugural Address a most profound statement on the activity of God and the role of faith in American life: “The Almighty has His own purposes.”

Likewise, Obama, in his chapter on faith in “The Audacity of Hope, challenges his fellow Democrats: “I think Democrats are wrong to run away from a debate about values.” If the Bill of Rights codifies the separation of church and state, Obama affirms that America, “as a religious people,” has never divided politics and religion. He couples the story of his own journey from skepticism to “embrace the Christian faith” with his admonition “to acknowledge the power of faith in the lives of the American people.”

Click (here) for the complete interview.

Ronald C White, Jr.
Ronald C. White is a New York Times Best Selling Author of 3 biographies on Abraham Lincoln and is the author of American Ulysses: A Life of Ulysses S. Grant due out in October 2016.
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