President Obama will not attend ceremonies at Gettysburg later this month marking the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's immortal address. Thank goodness! Mr. Obama has been getting few kudos of late. His Gallup approval rating has slipped into the thirties. But in this, we can applaud his action.
It is entirely fitting and proper that he should do this. First of all, consider the expense. Mr. Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg in 1863 by rail. He took Ward Hill Lamon, a U.S. Marshal, with him. Mr. Obama would have to go by caravan with hundreds of staffers. Just think of the gas.
Second, consider the distraction. Mr. Obama has been busy selling ObamaCare and working "24/7" on the next rollout of the Healthcare.gov website. Lincoln had that matter of Lee's army to contend with, but he had no idea of the burdens that fall to our modern presidents. The president will be laboring to assure that the November 30th deadline for a fully functional website is met.
Third, what would he say at Gettysburg? Mr. Lincoln managed to stay "on message" for all 272 words of his address. And he did this all without a teleprompter. President Obama would be strongly urged not to read out any 1-800 toll-free numbers. So what would he say?
How about: "That this government over the people, by Sebelius at HHS, under the Mandate shall not perish from the earth?" Doesn't quite have that Lincolnian ring does it?
Now, it's not like Mr. Obama doesn't have competent help. He took five hundred staffers to London with him in 2009, including six doctors and four speechwriters.
At that time, his car was flown to Britain ahead of the presidential party, as London's Evening Standard reported:
The driver of the presidential limo - Cadillac One - arrived last week to familiarize himself with driving on the left. The £300,000 rocket and bulletproof car was flown to the UK by a US Air Force transport plane.
I wonder if he liked those six doctors. Did he get to keep them?
I remember the president bowing before the Saudi king at that G-20 Summit in London, but I'm having trouble remembering what he actually said there.
Can anyone jog my memory? With four speechwriters, it should have been something special. My guess is that none of those who attended that London Summit can remember what President Obama said there. I doubt that any of the 500 staffers can remember, either.
The driver of the presidential limousine must have remembered to drive on the left, but he probably couldn't tell you what his VIP in the back seat said there.
Here's the hard part. Ask any of the four speechwriters what Mr. Obama said in London. Ask the president himself.
Well, Mr. Lincoln had a way with words. Honest Abe went to Gettysburg and humbly took second billing to the famous orator, Edward Everett, who was the featured speaker on that November 19, 1963. Everett later had the good grace to write the president: "I should like to flatter myself that I came as close to the central meaning of the event in two hours as you did in two minutes."
If Barack Obama had agreed to show up at the Sesquicentennial of the Gettysburg Address, the comparisons might not have been favorable. One of Lincoln's lines might have been quoted: "The world will little note nor long remember what we say here."
And, too, there might have been other embarrassing incidents at Gettysburg. Suppose President Obama were to be greeted by folks who have had their health insurance canceled as a result of ObamaCare. They might have carried signs saying:
Welcome, Honest Barack!
Maybe that's why he's staying home.