The Reactionary Utopian
                    December 7, 2006

by Joe Sobran

     Kwanzaa is imminent, but I'm planning to observe the 
holidays in a more traditional manner, curling up with 
THE SNOOP DOGG CHRISTMAS ALBUM. Mutatis mutandis, Snoop 
Dogg is this generation's Nat "King" Cole, and I look 
forward to his interpretation of that old chestnut "The 
Christmas Song."

     Yes, there are obvious superficial differences 
between Cole and Dogg. Cole relied more heavily on 
vibrato and orchestral backing, and he was never arrested 
for packing heat and illegal drugs in an airport. But 
then, it was a more laid-back age. Unlike today's rap 
artists, Cole didn't have to worry about being offed by 
his rivals, such as Perry Como. These days, rap has given 
the ancient maxim new relevance: "ars longa, vita 
brevis." Snoop Dogg has already surpassed the normal life 
span of a rap artist. Ask any actuary.

     Meanwhile, the bipartisan James Baker commission has 
finally issued its report on Iraq. "Bipartisan" is the 
usual term for a bunch of old white guys, even if they 
include an old black guy like Vernon Jordan, who has 
probably never heard of Dogg.

     The report says we need to send more troops to Iraq 
(but of course!), yet it dodges the real issue: whether 
Iraq was better off under Saddam Hussein than under 
George W. Bush. True, Saddam was not what we think of as 
a democrat, but he was a good supply-sider. Though he may 
have eliminated a lot of people, he had too much sense to 
kill the goose that laid the golden eggs. You could get 
hummus and tabouleh without risking life and limb. Thomas 
Hobbes would have liked him.

     Is it time to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq? Back in 
1862 you could have been arrested for saying U.S. troops 
should be pulled out of the Confederacy, because Abraham 
Lincoln insisted that they were fighting for "a new birth 
of freedom." Lincoln is the subject of yet another new 
book -- worshipful, naturally -- called THE GETTYSBURG 
GOSPEL, by Gabor Boritt (Simon and Schuster).

     This is the second recent book about the Gettysburg 
Address, the previous one being Garry Wills's 
Pulitzer-winning LINCOLN AT GETTYSBURG. Both books treat 
Lincoln as a national savior, overlooking his fallacious 
appeal to the Declaration of Independence. According to 
Lincoln, the Declaration "brought forth a new nation." 
That is plainly not true. The Declaration says nothing 
about a "nation"; it speaks only of 13 "Free and 
Independent States." It is, in fact, a declaration of 
secession! The 13 states are serving notice that they are 
pulling out of the British Empire.

     Lincoln even contradicts himself. In his first 
inaugural address, denying the right of any state to 
leave the Union, he had said that "the Union is older 
than the states." That is like saying that a marriage is 
older than the spouses. Apart from being nonsense, it 
implies that the "new nation" didn't begin with the 
Declaration after all.

     But Lincoln's worshippers, bewitched by his 
eloquence, rarely notice these little things. They 
overlook not only his lapses in logic but his gross 
violations of the Constitution: usurpations of power, 
suspension of habeas corpus, arbitrary arrests of 
dissenters and even elected officials, crackdown on the 
free press, the Emancipation Proclamation (Lincoln 
himself doubted his authority to issue it but finally 
yielded to Republican pressure), and so on.

     Some of the worshippers, such as Wills and Harry V. 
Jaffa, strain to defend these measures, but Boritt seems 
not even to notice them. He sounds like Tony Snow 
explaining Bush's Iraq policies: the king can do no 
wrong. Lincoln always praised Thomas Jefferson, but under 
his administration Jefferson, the ur-secessionist, would 
have found himself in the clink.

     Unless the North conquered the South, Lincoln said 
at Gettysburg, self-government itself would "perish from 
the earth." Balderdash, of course. Yet most Americans 
still take Lincoln's war propaganda as self-evident 
truth. He ranks among history's most durably successful 

     Too bad, because Lincoln is much more interesting 
when you read him critically. Boritt is at best a 
readable storyteller, but this book is nothing but 
celebration, and it's disgraceful -- nay, inexplicable -- 
that such scholars as David Herbert Donald and Harold 
Holzer should supply it with enthusiastic blurbs and 
panting praise.

     But don't waste your time trying to explain even to 
Bush's partisans that Lincoln was a much worse president 
than Bush. By a consensus I can only call bipartisan, 
Lincoln is a god, to whom we all owe our freedom -- you, 
me, and Snoop Dogg alike.


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