It’s Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. As his party gathered itself for the annual leap into the memory hole, Bill Kristol decided to celebrate by issuing, as Loomis pointed out in the comments to Rob’s post, what must surely count as one of the two or three worst historical analogies ever belched forth into the atmosphere.
Eric doesn’t overstate the issue a bit. When Kristol suggests — wearing his arrogant smirk like a badge of honor — that Barack Obama “would have been for Douglas in 1858,” he seems not to know one important historical fact. According to the laws of Illinois in 1858, Barack Obama would not only have been incapable of voting for Stephen Douglas, but he also would not have been allowed to enter the state in the first place. In 1853, Illinois passed one of the most restrictive black codes in the so-called “free north.” Blacks from other states were permitted to remain in the state for ten days; if they did not leave, they were subject to arrest and temporary enslavement — they would be sold to bidders who would be entitled to their labor until the mandatory $50 fine had been worked off. If the offending individual remained in Illinois after his or her release, the fines increased by $50 increments for each subsequent offense.
These laws remained in effect for years. Indeed, the Illinois state legislature tried to make these restictions permanent during the civil war and did not actually grant African Americans the right to vote until the US Constitution required them to do so.
It should go almost without saying now that William Kristol is desperately ignorant, but his his trivialization of history — with the sole intent of scoring cheap points against a black guy — demonstrates that he geniunely just doesn’t give a fuck.
In other Lincoln news, here’s one of Ronald Reagan’s brighter moments from 20 years ago today. Speaking to a group of middle school kids, Reagan offered this charming story about Lincoln’s ghost and Reagan’s King Charles spaniel:
But I have to tell you, I am puzzled. Because every once in a while our little dog, Rex, will start down that long hall toward that room just glaring as if he’s seeing something and barking. And he stops in front of Lincoln’s door, the bedroom door. And once, early on in this, I just couldn’t understand it. So, I went down and I opened the door, and I stepped in, and I turned around for him to come on, and he stood there, still barking and growling and then started backing away and would not go in the room. So, the funny thing, though, is I have to feel — unlike you might think about other ghosts — if he is still there, I don’t have any fear at all. I think it would be very wonderful to have a little meeting with him and probably very helpful.
It wounds as if Rex, too, would have been a Douglas supporter in 1858.