Spinning Lincoln

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 (Jeremy Friedlander)

The first rule of political spin is never to admit you're doing it. I'll break that rule now to demonstrate the second rule: anything can be spun.

Abraham Lincoln was a failed president. He came to Washington trying to unite the country and failed miserably. The number of Americans killed during his war equaled the total number of Americans killed in all other wars combined. Hundreds of thousands more were wounded and bereaved. Relatively few Americans could say they were better off at the end of his Presidency than they had been at its beginning.

A white supremacist, Lincoln dithered for two years before issuing the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed no one because it applied only to states in the Confederacy where the Union Army had no control.

Lincoln appointed a succession of ineffective generals to lead the Union Army before he finally found Ulysses S. Grant. Those bad decisions lengthened the war and the carnage. By choosing the incompetent Andrew Johnson for vice-president, Lincoln doomed Reconstruction.

Lincoln eroded civil liberties, suspending the writ of habeas corpus in a decision that still haunts us. And he was a crony capitalist, enabling railroad robber barons to bilk the government for millions of dollars in overpayments and sweetheart land deals.


These failures were no surprise because Lincoln was unprepared to be President. He came to the Presidency with no executive experience and only two years in Congress. He could make a good speech, but eloquence can't hide incompetence.

So there you have it -- more spin than on a ping-pong ball in the Olympics. Anyone can do it. Decide where you want to go, pick the facts to get there, ignore all others, sprinkle with innuendo. It's better than spin: it's a business plan. Check the web and your local cable listings.

Did I mention that FDR was a liar? You could look it up.
With a Perspective, I'm Jeremy Friedlander.

Jeremy Friedlander lives in San Francisco.