In my column in the last couple weeks, I outlined the “10 questions to find our next president.” I stand by them wholeheartedly, but I have one last question that is almost as important as all of them combined. It is for all the GOP candidates.
In former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s November trip to Charleston, S.C., he said the following: “I do approach this whole campaign, I think, differently from everybody else. We have a number of friends who are also running. We have no opponents except Barack Obama. I think that’s very important. I think [Abraham] Lincoln was very wise, as was captured in a book called ‘Team of Rivals,’ in actually developing literally everybody who [was] his opponent ended up in the [presidential] cabinet, because he needed all of them in order to be able to put together the political power during the crisis that we faced. I would say the same thing. I don’t know a single person currently running who wouldn’t be a very effective member of an administrative team who doesn’t have real talent and in some way would bring a unique strength. I don’t have any opponents on the Republican side.”
The book to which Newt refers is “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” by Doris Kearns Goodwin, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and presidential historian. In addition to topping charts and receiving scholarly acclaim, the book itself is political genius and I believe outlines the crucial strategy not only needed to rally the present GOP base but also win the White House and save our republic. (I also wrote about this unifying strategy in an article I titled, “The 8th miracle that saved America.”)
Goodwin’s prize-winning treatise details how Lincoln brought together his candidate rivals by appointing them to key positions in his administration when he became president.
Let me highlight a few critical points from Goodwin’s book review in the New York Times:
As these internal Republican feuds suggest, the party in the 1860′s was a coalition of politicians who only a few years earlier had been Whigs (Lincoln, Seward, Bates), Democrats (Blair, Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles and Vice President Hannibal Hamlin), Free Soilers (Chase), or had flirted with the short-lived anti-immigrant American Party, or Know Nothings (Cameron and Bates). In addition, several cabinet members personally disliked each other: Blair and Chase, Seward and Welles, Chase and Seward, Blair and Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, who replaced Cameron in January 1862. Lincoln’s “political genius” enabled him to herd these political cats and keep them driving toward ultimate victory.
How did he do it? Goodwin deals with this question better than any other writer. Part of the answer lay in Lincoln’s steadfastness of purpose, which inspired subordinates to overcome their petty rivalries. Part of it lay in his superb sense of timing and his sensitivity to the pulse of public opinion as he moved to bring along a divided people to the support of “a new birth of freedom.” And part of it lay in Lincoln’s ability to rise above personal slights, his talent for getting along with men of clashing ideologies and personalities who could not get along with each other.
The big question today is: Is there a Lincoln on the present political GOP landscape who can discern the times and is able to unite this team of rivals to save our country?
Today’s GOP presidential competitors are a unique blend of gifted and talented people. How many times have you heard from others, “There are strong elements I like in all of them”? You may not want to see all of them in the chair of the Oval Office, but wouldn’t you want to see most help the president and country in some position? Who wouldn’t want to utilize the brilliance and experience of Speaker Newt Gingrich? Who doesn’t appreciate the resolve and moral resiliency of Sen. Rick Santorum and Rep. Michele Bachmann? Who wouldn’t want to see our country benefit from the business backgrounds and leadership of Gov. Mitt Romney and even Herman Cain? Who doesn’t like the emboldened constitutional spirit and frugal fiscal passions of Rep. Ron Paul? Who wouldn’t value Gov. Rick Perry’s advocacy for jobs and against frivolous lawsuits via tort reform? And who wouldn’t want to see the foreign affair experience of Gov. Jon Huntsman better America’s global relations?
I recognize that GOP candidates cannot choose cabinet members or others in their administration before they are elected, but that does not mean they cannot pledge to. That is why my one last question for all GOP candidates is this: If elected president, will you appoint your GOP rivals as a part of your administration, to utilize their skill sets as President Lincoln did with his rivals, in order to unite and restore our republic?”
Yes or no?
Abraham Lincoln said, “I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong.”
Lincoln also said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
GOP candidates: yes or no?