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Why Lincoln Matters: Wise Answers to Today`s Tough Political Questions [Hardcover]

Mario M. Cuomo
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 15 2004
Abraham Lincoln, long the most resonant voice of American political values, was a founding member of the Republican Party. In today's charged political climate, he would be hard-pressed to recognize the issues in the contemporary GOP, argues Mario Cuomo, former governor of New York and a gifted political philosopher.

Challenged by slavery, secession, and war, Lincoln was able to forcefully articulate the values and ideals that have sustained our country since its inception. His speeches, writings, and actions melded the Constitution, the Bible, and his own experience into an American scripture that inspires faith in the future

Mario Cuomo shows how the big issues - equality, the role of government, war and peace, the responsibilities of the fortunate few - resonate in today's political climate as he brings to life the contemporary relevance of Lincoln's message for today's hot-button issues. Today's political discourse often lacks depth and wisdom, but Mario Cuomo's analysis of Abraham Lincoln will inspire readers to believe that government can still be a force for greater good in American society.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

In this heartfelt moral tract about the state of the nation and the challenges confronting it, former New York governor and sometime presidential aspirant Cuomo argues that the nation needs "an overarching grand concept" and "a vision worthy of the world's greatest nation." Cuomo finds them in the words and endeavors of our 16th president. The Rail Splitter's life and moral strength are, he believes, especially relevant today, when, says the author, we've wandered from our truest paths and no longer follow the best angels of our nature. Cuomo would have us adopt public policies, both domestic and international, that are "more compassionate," "more generous" and "more inclusive." If this seems like a Democrat's agenda, it is-but a centrist Democrat who, while candidly acknowledging that he hopes people will consider what he says in preparation for the 2004 election, is not sharply critical of the Republicans. Cuomo even offers an imagined address that Lincoln, if alive, would deliver to Congress this year. The problem is that while Cuomo clearly admires Lincoln, it's not self-evident why Lincoln's wisdom, laid out here effectively if tendentiously, is any more apposite to today's issues than, say, Washington's leadership, Jefferson's ideals or FDR's efforts to create international order. One could just as well take as a life motto Lincoln's celebrated admonition that "we must disenthrall ourselves" and that each generation must follow its own way and not one laid down in the past. So one comes away from this book modestly educated about Lincoln, nicely uplifted by Cuomo's intentions, but confused about why, precisely, Lincoln should be our guide.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

This distinguished politician, a three-term governor of New York, raises his eloquent voice here, not in a shout but in a song--to celebrate the political wisdom demonstrated repeatedly and resonantly by our sixteenth president. Cuomo presents what his own extensive reading of Lincoln's collected writings have taught him about his hero's thoughts on a variety of topics at issue back in Lincoln's time and now of current public concern, such as war, civil rights, religion, and race. Further, and more to the specific point of his book, Cuomo issues a strongly stated admonition for both political parties to refrain from simply laying claim to Lincoln as the spokesperson of their ideals and instead to conscientiously use his political and social concepts not for show but as guidance for formulating a policy for the direction in the world the U.S. should be taking in these confusing times. As he sees it, "we hunger for larger, better answers than we are receiving from our leaders." Patriotic without being schmaltzy, Cuomo packs a high thought-per-page ratio into his book, which every concerned citizen should examine. Brad Hooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Time for a Lincoln? Or an Escape hybrid? July 30 2004
This is a noble effort by a tired old politician who is eloquently trying to revive the charitible policies of the past
in an era for which they are mostly irrelevant.
Granted, it's much better than the Republican policy of deliberately imposing hardship to force people to rise
above adversity. Cuomo advocates old bad policies, which is admittedly far better than the horrible policies of the
Republicans. It's sad; instead of innovation, he merely offers a rebuilt Lincoln when America needs a hybrid
It's a common failing. Consider development of the Atlas missile; in World War II, the Germans developed the V-2
rocket and used it with devastating results. By 1946, the US wanted a bigger and better rocket. The Atlas
origram encountered years of opposition and delays because the bureaucracy consisted of former pilots who
favored manne aircraft; the Atlas missile, conceived in 1946, didn't become operational until 1961.
It is a classic example of the status quo being unable to understand the future. In this case, Cuomo can't see
beyond the brilliance of President Franklin Roosevelt who exemplified the best of Lincoln's concern for the
common citizen. The problem is that we don't live in the time of Lincoln, or Roosevelt.
President John F. Kennedy saw beyond Roosevelt; in his inaugural, he stated, "Ask not what your country can do
for you -- ask what you can do for your country." It was a dramatic contrast to the "complacency is enough" of
President Eisenhower and the "greed is enough" of recent Republicans.
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By asphlex
Call this a good book with a number of obvious problems. The first issue I would take (and my four star review is quite sincere, regardless of the spate of criticisms to follow) is the fact that many of these essays were clearly written at different times. The editorial process, or what there is of it, has managed somewhat admirably to keep the issues up to date (or at least to the time of its publication as so many things are happening so quickly it is impossible to avoid an ensuing irrelevence). What is wrong is the fact that so many points are repeated--endlessly, it seems at times--and this makes the reader sometimes wonder if they hadn't just read or overheard the exact same thing elsewhere. Now there are positives and negatives to this impression. A positive, certainly, would be the implied rational logic of the argument--yeah, I've heard that before so this guy really makes sense. The negative (and this probably affected me more specifically) is that you will read the same idea over and over again.
Now Cuomo has some good things to say, some interesting parallels to make between Lincoln's time and the present moment in history and he argues passionately and forcefully. He didn't necessarily need to convince me as I likely already agreed with much of what he is saying. But as a reader I try to avoid applying my own personal biases and look at the issue at hand objectively (although if I disagreed with his points I bet my review would have dropped a star or two).
What is ultimately at hand, after the eloquent sling shots of President Bush and his supporters, is a minimal hypocrisy on the part of Mr. Cuomo, a man I admire and respect tremendously.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Lincoln From a (Very) Liberal Viewpoint July 2 2004
Mario Cuomo, three time governor of New York is also a long-time Lincoln scholar. Here he writes a very interesting book on how he thinks Lincoln would have handled the situations facing George W. Bush.
The simularities are striking, not only a war, but deep divisions within the country on the basic conservative/liberal viewpoints.
During the civil war Lincoln silenced some of his enemies by simply arresting them and holding them without trial or due process. In 1866 the Supreme Court ruled this illegal. Now the US is holding some 158 accused Taliban and al Qaeda members. Just this week the Supreme Court said 'no-no.'
Throughout the book Mr. Cuomo uses selected quotations from Lincoln to illustrate how he thinks Lincoln would have handled the current situations. As Mr. Cuomo is an unabashed liberal, and Mr. Bush is an unabashed conservative, I wonder if Mr. Bush might have picked a different set of quotations to prove that he is handling the situation just like Lincoln would have done.
This is a very different approach to using history to illustrate our current problems. One small section of the book is devoted to how Lincoln might have addressed Congress, a Lincoln's State of the Union Message if you will. Mr. Cuomo uses this 'speach' to decry budget deficits (strange how the Democrats and Republicans have switched sides on this issue), but spend more on education, give more money to the states, etc.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Synthesis June 16 2004
By A Customer
Gov. Cuomo has done a tremendous job weaving together his own commentary on our nation's present predicament with Lincoln's wisdom. When I read Donald's biography of Lincoln, I found Lincoln's humility in the face of his challengers to be the most enduring lesson. In part, I think it grew out of his considerable depression and what was clearly a sense of being alone in the world. Ironically, it became his greatest asset. In a strange way, by contrast, George W is too well-adjusted for our nation's good. The thread that runs through his prosecution of this war, his cynical treatment of the environment, his tax policies, and many other policies is a complete absence of self-doubt. The beauty of this book is that Gov. Cuomo has captured both Lincoln's essence and Bush's in a nuanced contrast.
I found three areas particularly fascinating. First, the discussion of civil liberties and Lincoln's approach to the Supreme Court appointments. I had not thought about the relevance of Lincoln's actions in the Civil War to the current Court's consideration of "enemy combatant" status for U.S. citizens. Second, Lincoln's religion fascinates me in part b/c Jefferson's does as well. I wish it were better appreciated that two of our nation's most foundational thinkers and leaders had deep concerns about the role of organized religion in issues of state and worked hard to preserve the separation without denying the value of religious beliefs and practice. Third, and most important, the State of the State chapter was a terrific idea and beautifully executed. I only wish that it were being issued by the White House today rather than just being published by Harcourt Brace.
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