"I shall be fully convinced... that he [President Polk] is deeply conscious of being in the wrong: that he feels the blood of this war, like the blood of Abel, is crying to Heaven against him."
~ Abraham Lincoln, 12 January 1848
"That's what I'm opposed to - a dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason, but on passion; not on principle, but on politics."
~ Barack Obama, 2 October 2002
It is impossible to hear Barack Obama speak without realizing that he was a legal professor. People say that Obama's rallies are all fluff and no substance; not so. He could turn on the fluff to unprecedented heights if he wished. His supporters have a messianic quality about them; they follow Obama unreservedly and remind me of how blind Bartimaeus felt after Jesus restored his sight. Barack's public speech is much more measured, careful, and precise, even, at times, bordering on pedantic. Yet his grasp on the issues is formidable.
Obama was the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. Lincoln, too, went into the law, at a time when the sons of backwoods, backwards Kentucky farmers were not seen as top-notch legal material. Both men lived and worked close to the people they served, held low-level political offices, and worked with clients from the very richest to the very poorest.
Lincoln and Obama also share deep, resonant, feisty political voices. Contemporaries often spoke of the effect Lincoln's slow, rolling voice could have on a crowd. Obama's raspy baritone, which conveys a hint of his Kenyan ancestry, is his best political instrument.
As the epigraphs show, both men hated war and weren't afraid to risk their political lives to stand against the current and oppose wars of choice. (In the medium term, California could have been purchased from Mexico.) Lincoln, though, raised an army to suppress Southern secession and led the country through the trials of the Civil War. Obama correctly advocates a phased withdrawal from Iraq, but he would be just as steady in the midst of crisis.
We need a president who reminds us of our better angels. Barack Obama is that man.