Conservative generosity about this historic inauguration has limits. Perhaps the first one is referring to Obama or his oath-taking as “sacred” events. You may like him, you may be hopeful about his presidency, but he is not a divine figure. Liberal historian Doris Kearns Goodwin crossed this line twice on Sunday’s Meet the Press in a matter of a minute or so:
Well, you know, the most important thing I think now is that all inaugurals have a certain emotion connected to them. It’s a sacred renewal for our country. You feel like America can change suddenly because there’s a new president there. But this one has an even more special moment….There’s the fact that it’s the first African-American being elected as a president….
Which will be so much bigger even than I think we know, when that moment takes place. And there’s the fact that he’s got literary capabilities. Very few inaugurals are remembered when you think about the speeches, except for the terrible ones like Harding. Mencken said they – it was so horrible that it was glorious. So all those things together make it possible that this is going to be the most exciting in our memory. JFK is exciting after the fact because of the literary moment and because of Camelot that, that came after it. But I’m not sure at the moment that you had people all over the country, as is going to be happening here, in, in little living rooms, in diners, in bars watching this, taking the day as a sacred day.
Another line crossing is comparing Barack Obama to Abraham Lincoln. Goodwin has every reason to be generous to Obama after how many copies of her book Team of Rivals he helped sell for her (down to the point that he held up her book on literacy posters). But Obama is not yet the mirror image of Lincoln:
But I think the great thing about Lincoln is not only what he did – which Obama has also tried in some ways to emulate by putting powerful people around him who are going to argue and question him, so he’s going to get a lot of options – it’s who Lincoln was. There’s no better person to summon the spirit of than somebody who had the emotional intelligence of Abraham Lincoln, and I think we see hints of it in Obama: not wanting to demonize the opposition, bringing people like David Brooks and other people around him to – and Reverend Warren in, who may not agree with him on all occasions, but wants to listen to them.
….Being able to deal with people, create loyalty within your inner circle. His team has been incredibly loyal. And more importantly, being able to engage the country through your literary talents, through your plain speaking, to follow what you’re doing. If you can follow Lincoln on those things, you can’t be – you can’t have a better person.
Watching interviews like this makes you feel like some of these professor/pundits are not offering a historical perspective, but a hysterical perspective.