Thursday 6 October 2016

At least Hillary is rather less likely to start a war than Lincoln or LBJ

The Atlantic, the august (and highly readable) American political magazine founded by the Boston Brahmin James Russell Lowell, has nominated three presidential candidates: Lincoln in 1860, LBJ in 1964 and now Hillary. 

I detest Hillary, but she is much the least disastrous of those three. She is very divisive ("the basket of deplorables", white privilege, etc.) but she will not take half of her country to war with the other half. 

She will not be nearly as left-wing as Johnson, though she will continue to add to the problems he created with his welfare state. 

She is more likely to involve the USA in wars than Donald Trump, but shouldn't be as warlike as The Atlantic's other two choices. 

At least, I hope not. George W. Bush looked like an isolationist when he came to office. The one thing you know about US Presidents is that they never behave in a way that can be predicted when they first win election.

When I was young I read the collected essays of James Russell Lowell. Life seemed eternal in those days. They were stodgy, as American nineteenth century writers usually were, except for Mark Twain. All I remember of them is his remark that enthusiasm, once allowed to become cold, can only be heated up as cant. 

That seems an apt description for the liberalism of Hillary Clinton. 


  1. I feel I must comment at least on the title about Lincoln.

    Lincoln didn't go into the presidency wanting war at all--his aim was to exclude slavery from the new territories, but let it be in the states that still had it in 1860. Emancipation was framed and issued as a military tactic in 1863, merely applying in rebelling states and not in Union slave states. Yet the South had revolted anyway--I think that with everything that happened in the ten and twenty years prior to 1860 made civil war inevitable. Presidents Pierce and Buchanan, and justice Tawny, had, in hoping to settle the slavery issue, instead created a situation that was intolerable to North and South.

    I’d recommend "Lincoln at Gettysburg" and Jean Baker’s "James Buchanan" for more on this. Lincoln’s strength was being on the right side of morality, which the Atlantic was taking into account. A peaceful resolution of the slavery issue was almost impossible after 1857, if not before then.

  2. From Lincoln's 2nd inaugural address: "Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came."

    1. Forgetting his cant, he need not have gone to war. If Scotland tried to secede and Mrs. May launched total war to keep Scots in the UK would you approve?

    2. While the American (falsely named) Civil War was senseless in a way, it's more complicated.
      If Scotland attacked a British military outpost on Scotland territory, would Britain not retaliate?
      If Scotland had vast amounts of raw materials needed in Mancunian factories, would Britain not invade?
      If Scotland made treaties with Britain's enemies, and Britain felt threatened and encircled militarily, would Britain not employ a pre-emptive strike?
      If Scotland imprisoned and enslaved free British subjects, would Britain not invade?
      Mind you, I am not justifying the decision of the North to go to war, I am just bringing up the fact that there is a lot more nuance to consider than "the South wanted to leave peacefully, they should have been left alone."