Why Lincoln Matters: Today More Than Ever Hardcover – Jun 1 2004
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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.
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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
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
Most recent customer reviews
In today's political climate, the rhetoric and the pressure to be either Democrat or Republican often ignores the fact that the issues are so closely interwoven that it's difficult... Read morePublished on June 15 2004 by Patricia B. Ross
Governor Cuomo, one of the nation's foremost experts on Abraham Lincoln's life and writings, has examined the ways in which Lincoln dealt with the crises facing the nation during... Read morePublished on June 7 2004
Yet another reason why we need a change of administration badly. The current un-elected president has distorted and perverted what America and democracy has meant for all previous... Read morePublished on June 1 2004
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