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2019年2月12日 星期二

RCP Morning Note, 02/12/2019: Sherrod Brown; Crediting Errors; Young Abe Lincoln


02/12/2019
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Carl Cannon's Morning Note

Sherrod Brown; Crediting Errors; Young Abe Lincoln

By Carl M. Cannon on Feb 12, 2019 09:19 am

Good morning, it's Tuesday, February 12, 2019. On this date 210 years ago, Nancy Hanks Lincoln brought her second baby into the world. The first, who came less than a year after she married her husband, Thomas, was a girl named Sarah. The child born February 12, 1809 was a boy -- to whom they also bequeathed an Old Testament name: Abraham.

For two years after his birth, the Lincoln family barely eked out a living on an infertile, 300-acre Kentucky spread called Sinking Spring Farm. Although the place is a national historic site today, the adult Abraham Lincoln would have no recollection of it. The first home he'd remember, called Knob Creek, is located 10 miles to the northeast, also in Kentucky. Both farms had dirt-floor log cabins, which we associate with the 16th U.S. president's humble beginnings. When Abe was 7, the family moved further north, figuratively and literally, across the Ohio River into Indiana, which was not a slave state.

In a moment, I'll have more on that childhood, along with an observation about how our upbringings and heritage inform our outlooks in ways we don't fully realize. First, I'd point you to our front page, where we aggregate stories and columns spanning the political spectrum. We also offer a complement of original material from RCP's staff and contributors.

* * *

Will Sherrod Brown Carry the Blue-Collar Torch in 2020? Phil Wegmann examines the Ohio senator's chances of winning back the Midwest for Democrats.

Donald Trump, Revealer-in-Chief. Steve Cortes writes that the president's unorthodox and pugnacious approach to politics unmasks his opponents' true motivations and philosophies.

Washington Is Missing a Chance to Cut Federal Workforce. Tom Coburn and Adam Andrzejewski argue that the president has the opportunity to rein in bloated employee rolls in his ongoing negotiations with Congress.

Before Abramson, a Long Line of Writers' Crediting Errors. Max Diamond has this roundup.

Russia Reset Not the Answer to Russian-Chinese Cooperation. In RealClearDefense, Bradley Bowman and Andrew Gabel call on the U.S. to reinforce and expand its alliances in Europe and Asia to deter aggression by our great power rivals.

Our Love Affair with Billionaires. RealClearMarkets editor John Tamny takes exception to Farhad Manjoo's complaints about the billionaire class.

It's Time to Extend Tax Cuts and Simply Tax Code. In RealClearPolicy, Elaine Parker asserts that last year's legislation should only be the starting point for further changes to tax laws.

What Lake Hephaestus Tells Us About Life on Mars. RealClearScience editor Ross Pomeroy spotlights research into one of the most alien locations on Earth.

* * *

As a grown man, Abraham Lincoln would only infrequently discuss Nancy Hanks Lincoln, who died when he was 9. When he did mention her, it was usually a passing reference to "my angel mother." As Lincoln biographer David Herbert Donald has noted, this was not solely a testament to her "loving affection," but also a way of differentiating Nancy Hanks Lincoln from his stepmother, Sarah Bush Lincoln, whom Thomas Lincoln married a year after his first wife died -- and who treated her adopted children well.

According to William Herndon, Lincoln's law partner in Springfield, Illinois, the future president once paid homage to Nancy Hanks in a cryptic manner. "God bless my mother," Lincoln told Herndon, "for all that I am or ever hope to be I owe to her."

It's a famous quote that crops regularly on Mother's Day -- writers at Hallmark have dined out on it for many decades -- but Lincoln may not have meant it sentimentally. David Herbert Donald and William Lee Miller, another insightful Lincoln scholar, both parsed Lincoln's remark carefully and concluded that he wasn't mainly talking about her gifts as a nurturer. Rather, he was alluding subtly, as one must in such circumstances, to his mother's parentage, and his own ancestry. Rumored to have been born out of a wedlock to a Virginia gentleman of uncertain identity, Nancy Hanks evidently passed along, via the vagaries of genetics, the intellectual gifts that separated, even estranged, Abraham Lincoln from his father. In his New York Times review of Donald's 2003 book, "We Are Lincoln Men," Miller put it this way: "By some slip-up in God's assignments, this unusually ambitious boy with superlative powers was misplaced into the remote Hoosier woods. Shaping himself, he rose to unimagined heights, and in the contentious world of politics."

In his own brilliant volume, "Lincoln's Virtues," Miller amplified on this point: "[Lincoln] discovers in himself intellectual abilities that are not evident in his relatives among the Hankses or the Lincolns."

Fair enough, but there's more to the story, isn't there? Thomas Lincoln was not only a physical man with little interest in learning. He was also an ethical and spiritual man who paid attention to the political world around him. Abraham Lincoln's father moved his family out of a Kentucky county that had as many slaves as freemen, partly because he didn't want to compete with enslaved laborers who were unpaid. But that wasn't the full extent of it. Thomas Lincoln and his wife had joined the Separate Baptist Church, a sect famous for eschewing dancing, drinking, profanity, and gambling. Most of all, however, Separate Baptists were unequivocally opposed to slavery on moral grounds.

It was an attitude that stuck with Thomas Lincoln's oldest son, who explained in 1864 that he was "naturally" opposed to slavery, adding, "I cannot remember when I did not so think, and feel."

Carl M. Cannon
Washington Bureau chief, RealClearPolitics
@CarlCannon (Twitter)
ccannon@realclearpolitics.com

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