When we look at the failures and moral corruption of modern politicians, the question that most often arises is "has there ever been an honest president beyond corruption?"
Yes, according to historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. His name was Abraham Lincoln.
In her new, 750-page tome, The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, Goodwin portrays an honest, moral man caught up in dishonest, immoral times.
Writes Martha D. Bone in Kentucky’s The Ledger Independent:
Abraham Lincoln, of all our presidents, is the one most worthy of our respect and most worthy as a role model. His life has been researched and dug into more than perhaps any person in our history, but there are no stories of adultery or cooking the books or lying or even unkindness. I’m sure he wasn’t perfect, but he comes closer than even a Roosevelt or a Kennedy or a Jefferson. And he was opposed to slavery from the very beginning of his political career. He was even, as I discovered, opposed to the Mexican War.
President James K. Polk asked Congress to declare war, insisting that Mexico had fired on U.S. soldiers on American soil. Lincoln, in his first term as a representative, asked President Polk just where that first spot of blood was shed, on U.S. or Mexican soil. This request, implying that the U.S. had invaded Mexican soil prior to any blood being shed, earned for Lincoln the derisive nickname “spotty Lincoln.” All of Lincoln’s friends begged him to stop opposing the war, fearing that he would never be elected to another office if he persevered. As Goodwin writes, “his prospects rapidly evaporated in the fever of war.”
Sound familiar? Justin Butterfield was a prominent Chicago politician of the time. He was asked if he opposed the Mexican War, and he replied: “No. I opposed one War (the War of 1812). That was enough for me. I am now perpetually in favor of war, pestilence, and famine.” Whenever this country is at war, our reason seems to go out the window. People who are horrified about our treatment of Japanese Americans during World War II see nothing wrong with imprisonment without trial and secret torture today. Those who stand up and say no to war have their lives threatened and their characters blackened. To paraphrase Goodwin, our reason evaporates in the fever of war.