WHAT WOULD ABRAHAM LINCOLN SAY TO DONALD TRUMP?
Since 1989, each outgoing American president has left a private letter of comments and advice in the Oval Office for their incoming successor. What a treasure trove of history the Nation would have if this tradition had started with George Washington, instead of Ronald Reagan. Even better it would be, if a far-past presidents of unique and relevant experience could whisper in the ear of a future Chief Executive in challenging times.
Abraham Lincoln in 1861, elected with under 40% of the vote, inherited a politically divided Union. He was pushed into a Civil War with domestic terrorists, propelled toward budget deficits and faced a balky Congress and a conflicted Supreme Court.
Donald Trump in 2017, chosen by 46% of the ballots, faces the political division of civil unrest, a war with international insurgents, spiraling spending, a Congress which has too long delayed solving critical issues and a deadlocked Supreme Court.
To be sure, today’s contrast between Red States blockaded on both East and West by Blue States is not comparable to yesterday’s catastrophic secession of Slave States in the South. Further, Lincoln and Trump are very different men. One, at age 70, has a fine college education and no political experience. The other, then 51, was a former state legislator and congressman with first grade level formal schooling.
The times too are vastly different. Modem communication for Trump is instantaneous on the internet. For Lincoln, it was the telegraph. It took Lincoln 13 days to journey from Springfield to Washington by rail as President-elect. Mr. Trump flew from New York in less than an hour.
Nevertheless, Lincoln 16 may well have valuable insights for Trump 45 to prevent the current culture clash from erupting into a second civil war. Knowing that California may be on the verge of declaring itself a “sanctuary state,” Lincoln may well have written:
THE EXECUTIVE MANSION
Though I left the Executive Mansion a Century and a half ago, custom permits me to leave a word of advice. The same gap of time between us permits you to freely disregard it.
You are a builder, I merely a lawyer. I suspect that your administration will commence with a flurry of reconstruction.
Strong cabinet appointments are a necessity. One might say I relied upon a team of rivals. I am certain that your choices, like mine, will be swiftly confirmed by the Senate.
I faced and surmounted a great Civil War. Circumstances have forced upon you a great civil unrest. Let not criticism deter you from a required path.
Prioritize the nation’s needs, but be flexible, strategic. My only purpose was to save the Union. I would have freed some, all or none of the slaves to do that. In time, I accomplished both freedom and union.
Let Congress legislate, but fear not the issuance of Executive Orders. My edicts were the essence of saving a Nation: Draft calls to muster troops, suspending habeas corpus to preserve the peace, emancipation to win the war.
Take care to guard the Constitution – ultimately it, and the Declaration of lndependence which enables it – are our gift to the world and ourselves.
If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author. As a Nation of free men we will live forever, or die by suicide.
Issue not any proclamation in haste or heat of anger. While a bird may “tweet” with impunity, a President must preside, most often, above the fray. My custom of placing my “hot” letters in a desk drawer, “Never Sent,” “Never Signed,” served the country well.
Finally, keep faith – keep your promises made to the electorate. We Republicans are a new and ever emerging party and must build, not dissipate the base. Remember always, this is a government of the people, by the people, for the people.
SPEAKER – Dave Leroy, President and Founder of the Idaho Lincoln Institute, is scheduling a limited number of speaking engagements to share Abraham Lincoln’s wisdom and how these timeless principles are important to embrace at this pivotal time in our Nation’s history. Please go to this link to learn more about having Dave speak at your event.