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The differences between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are many, aside from their sex. If there were a historical relationship that was at all similar, it would not be too much of a stretch to refer to the relationship of Abraham Lincoln and Salmon Chase.
Both sets of people were political enemies, both campaigned against each other, both had different economic and social backgrounds, and both became famous in very different ways. Currently, a great number of Hillary fans, even her husband, the ex-president of the United States, are pushing Obama to place her on the ticket as vice president. Their arguments are well known by now. Lincoln did it, and it strengthened his presidency. Hillary would bring in her supporters, especially those who do not support Obama. She has experience, knowledge and drive.
I suggest that Obama should not choose her. No matter how strong these arguments are, choosing Hillary would be a horrible mistake.
First, let’s quickly revisit the profiles of Obama and Hillary, then Lincoln and Chase.
Barack Obama, a self-made man, relying on his wit, energy, and brains, was an virtual unknown until he burst into America’s psyche, first with an impressive speech, then with a brilliant, successful campaign for president. His intellect was obvious from the start. During Law school, he was elected editor of the Harvard Law Review, hardly an easy task. After graduation, instead of making millions on Wall Street, he headed to Chicago where he worked the streets, seeking social justice. His first post graduate job paid $12,000, plus the use of a used car. (Wall Street salaries for top grads even then were in the low six figure) It is notable that he recently paid off the last of his school loans.
Hillary Clinton’s pedigree is far more traditional. A child of a successful businessman, graduate of Wellesley and Yale Law, she cut her teeth on politics when she was 13, canvassing Chicago, looking for evidence of voting fraud against her family’s candidate, Richard Nixon (1960). She worked in DC, joined the Rose Law firm in Arkansas, sat on Walmart’s board of directors, and was First Lady of Arkansas from 1979-1981 and 1983-1992. She then became First Lady of the United States, where she tried, but failed to reform health care. Her financial story is remarkable and every different than Barack’s. Aside from her high Rose partnership income, and her Walmart connections, she turned a small investment into a $100,000 profit in an amazing futures trade. She also gathered more campaign funds than any other candidate far in advance of the 2008 presidential campaign. Since becoming Senator of New York, she and her husband earned in excess of $109,000,000. Before the 2008 campaign started, she had more than $140,000,000 collected for the race.
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Abraham Lincoln was born to poor, uneducated farmers. He had a total of 18 months of schooling, and taught himself to read, write, and think. A voracious reader, he became an attorney and traveled the “circuit” in Illinois, representing the poor, the rich, and anyone who needed legal help. His wit, story-telling and pragmatic approach often masked the keen intellect behind his folksy charm. His counterparts not only enjoyed his company, they learned to respect his ability and to rely on his competent advice and legal insights. After four terms as a congressman, he approached the issue of slavery as one of the most critical in our country’s history. After taking an anti-war stance, his political opponents tried to capitalize on that issue attacking his patriotism and experience.
Lincoln became somewhat famous after his debates with Stephen Douglas, mostly on the issue of slavery. Douglas (who won the senate seat) pushed the idea of states’ rights and popular sovereignty as a solution to the growing disagreements between the North and South.
On the topic of slavery, Lincoln famously said:
[The Act has a] declared indifference, but as I must think, covert real zeal for the spread of slavery, I cannot but hate it. I hate it because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself. I hate it because it deprives our republican example of its just influence in the world — enables the enemies of free institutions, with plausibility, to taunt us as hypocrites — causes the real friends of freedom to doubt our sincerity, and especially because it forces so many really good men amongst ourselves into an open war with the very fundamental principles of civil liberty — criticizing the Declaration of Independence, and insisting that there is no right principle of action but self-interest.
While popular in Illinois, other than his debates and speeches, Lincoln was unknown outside of his state.
Salmon Chase was a successful lawyer, politician and businessman. He served as a US Senator, and later, as the governor of Ohio. As a lawyer, his religious belief quickly drew him to abolition of slavery and he became famous defending runaway slaves from being returned to their owners. As Senator (1849–1855) he became the champion of the growing anti-slavery movement. His attacks on the Compromise Measures of 1850 and the Kansas-Nebraska Bill of 1854 made his a household name. As governor of Ohio, (1855-1859) he supported women’s rights and free education for all. He joined the fledgling Republican party, mainly because of their stance on slavery. The alternatives, the Whigs and Know Nothings, had too many problems on other issues.
Most northerners (Chase included), especially those in Ohio, were convinced that Salmon Chase would easily win the 1860 nomination for president. In fact, Chase was considered the “inevitable nominee”, the one whose knowledge, many years of experience, and broad support, would easily overcome any political opponent. At the very least, he had the greatest name recognition, and despite the hatred of Southerners and Democrats, Chase was going to be a shoo-in. Or so the media reported.
As reported in Dorris Kearns Goodwin’s superb book, Team of Rivals, Abraham Lincoln’s selection as the Republican nominee, and his eventual election, was due to his brilliant strategy before and during the convention. No political observer game him the slightest chance over better financed and far more famous competitors like Salmon Chase. After he won, many of his opponents, Seward, Chase, Bates, and others, all felt that the wrong man had been chose, and that each one of them was a far more capable, stronger and appropriate selection. As Goodwin noted, the common reaction was typified by the well respected author Ralph Waldo Emerson “we heard the result coldly and sadly. It seemed too rash, on a purely local reputation, to build so grave a trust in such anxious times.”
Lincoln surprised not only his political opponents, he surprised the nation. He selected the best and the brightest, many of them individuals who he had just beaten. Chase, probably the strongest opponent, was asked to run the Treasury. This was an brilliant stroke by Lincoln. Although the first shots had not been fired, a low grade civil war was already brewing between the North and South. One state had seceded, and others were moving in that direction. The election of the anti-slavery Republican only sped up that process. The entire nation knew that they faced a gathering storm; the only question was when it would explode.
Lincoln knew just how precarious the financial picture was. Civil War was inevitable, paying for it was the key. If the economic situation got out of hand, several things would happen. First, he would lose the war. Second, European states (who had already peacefully outlawed slavery) might consider recognizing the CSA, causing a permanent split in our country. Third, without proper, rational funding the Northern states could collapse as well.
His selection of Chase as Treasury Secretary (1860-1863) accomplished several things. His presence steadied the nerves of Europe, keeping them from recognizing CSA. His brilliant approach to finance kept the country and the war effort afloat, despite dire news and difficult times. Without Chase, it was likely that the war would have been lost – simply due to financial problems.
Athough Chase was a loyal Treasury Secretary, doing a great job under the most trying times, by 1864, a growing number of Republicans thought that they needed a change. Despite some great military victories in 1863, the situation was reversed in 1864, and there was a serious movement to replace Lincoln with Chase.
Chase went so far as to put his name on the ballot in Ohio. He even consented to having others use his name as a candidate. In the winter of 1863-4, a number of political leaders created the Pomeroy Circular. This was supposed to be a secret document, but was quickly leaked to a paper (probably by Chase himself).
The Circular stated, “Mr. Lincoln’s re-election was impossible. . . That his Manifest tendency towards compromises and temporary expedients of policy rendered it (his re-election) undesirable; Mr. Chase united more of the qualities needed in a President for the next four years than were combined in any other available candidate.”
After the leak, the Circular spread like wildfire throughout the North. Chase himself brought up the issue with Lincoln, telling him that just as he (Chase) would never assign blame to Lincoln for the bad words or actions of others, Lincoln should treat him (Chase) the same with respect to the Circular. Although he denied responsibility, a decade after Lincoln’s death, while Chase was Supreme Court Justice, one of the authors of the Circular admitted that not only was Chase aware of the Circular, he was deeply involved in its creation.
The Pomeroy Circular is but one example of the differences between Chase and Lincoln, and Chase’s never ending dream to be president.
Let’s apply that lesson to Obama – Clinton.
Chase was brilliant, successful, well-read, determined, politically talented, a gentleman, and most of all, an honorable man. When asked, he served the nation first, setting aside his own presidential goals. Hillary Clinton has shown many character traits, strength, perseverance, a will to win, and a hunger for office. However, missing from this list is that most important characteristic – a sense of honor.
Whether she was offered a cabinet post or the vice presidency, Hillary’s personality would make her a horrible choice for higher office. Although, on the surface, she might give the appearance of loyalty, the next four years would be little more than an opportunity for her to do her damnedest to replace Obama as president in 2012. Her willingness to “throw the kitchen sink” should be instructive as to her future behavior. No honorable person would concoct the drug dealing lies, the muslim rumors, the Madrassas e-mails, nor would any person with honor research everything from his kindergarden papers to his pastor’s past sermons. There are no limits to Hillary’s hunger for office, and combined with her ego, that lack of self-restraint and hunger for the presidency would make her an extremely dangerous and untrustworthy member of Obama’s administration.
Lincoln was well served by his choices, and when they disagreed (which they did routinely) Lincoln listened to all advice, even from those with whom he disagreed, then decided a course of action. What was notable was that even his most bitter enemies, Seward, Chase, etc, responded by following his decision, with absolutely no qualms or public dissent. Such loyalty simply does not exist in Hillary.
So, Senator Obama, heed the lesson from the Pomeroy Circular. Safeguard your future administration. Invite political enemies, invite the best and the brightest, but limit your invitations and selections to those who deserve your trust and who will serve the country first and foremost. Hillary is not that person.