Plus Ca Change...

WaTi book review: Lincoln in The Times. NYT editorialized against Lincoln 6 weeks into secession:
The country... sees no indications of an administrative policy adequate to the emergency --or, indeed, of any policy beyond listless waiting.
The NYT was a Republican paper back in the day. (On another topic, check out the gruesome description the Times printed of Lincoln's blood everwhere at Ford's theater. We've grown more squeamish, definitely.)

Mr. W. reminds me that Grant complains in his 2-volume memoir (we have an autographed copy, but there's no truth to the rumor that either of us was contemporaneous with Ulysses S.) about the awful press coverage of the war --especially in the Northern papers. In describing the battle of Shiloh, Grant complains that the Union gets no credit for the way it fought and reports of Confederate feats are greatly exaggerated. Describing a Confederate general's account of events, Grant writes:
The Confederates fought with courage at Shiloh, but the particular skill claimed I could not and still cannot see; though there is nothing to criticize except the claims put forward since.
Here's the good part, though:
But the Confederate claimants for superiority in strategy, superiority in generalship and superiority in dash and prowess are not so unjust to the Union troops engaged at Shiloh as are many Northern writers.
Heh. Thanks be to God the Founders had the good sense to place the conduct of war in the hands of the Chief Executive. Congress can't see beyond the next election cycle, and in the press all wars are being lost until they're won.

Comparing Lincoln with Secretary of War Stanton, Grant makes a telling remark. He says Lincoln wasn't timid, whereas the Secretary was terribly so:
He could see our weakness, but he could not see that the enemy was in danger. The enemy would not have been in danger if Mr. Stanton had been in the field.
Well, that's the difference between Bush & our feckless Congress precisely, and why I love Bush in spite of all his shortcomings and mistakes. Timidity that can only see the dangers to ourselves, versus the prudent boldness that resolves to turn events to our favor as the Prez said in SOTU.

I am convinced by the testimony of the folks who are actually there that we can prevail, and certain that we must. I am not, however, sanguine about our chances for success when so few people are committed to victory; anyway, in war there are always too many contingencies and every victory is a kind of miracle. As I said to ninme last night, Gen. Petraeus' confirmation gives us about 6 months to turn things around before Congress starts cutting off funds. So everyone pray your Lepanto rosaries and St. Michael prayers.

Which, if you'll permit me to ramble a bit more, brings me to Bush's suggestion in SOTU that we create some kind of volunteer corps for civilians to go to Iraq and help out. No one seems to have picked up on that idea, so maybe it's dead on arrival or maybe if enacted it would be another govt. boondoggle like Americorps. But on the face of it I like that idea. Firstly because I am confident our troops can subdue Baghdad and equally confident that a little ingenuity could find solutions to the human problems, as Gen. Keane has pleaded. But secondly because it's fundamentally unhealthy for us to be engaged in a great cause and have the feeling that only the armed forces are engaged in it.

Someone tells the story of being a kid when peace broke out at the close of World War II and the years of rationing ended. His father went to the local filling station and told the attendant
Fill 'er up. And spill some.
So the tank was filled, and then the attendant ceremoniously pumped a little on the ground. The man paid, and the two shook hands and smiled at each other. You can imagine all that was exchanged in the glance of those two men at each other --joy, relief, but mostly the comeraderie of triumph in a common victory. Who will shake hands with Bush if we triumph?