Four Score and Seven Years Ago…
I listened to President Obama’s August 31st Oval Office speech on Public Broadcasting. I liked it. It was direct and touched on crucial issues. I felt the speech said what needed to be said; particularly, it gave thanks to the servicemen and women who have served in Iraq and their families.
Immediately following the address, PBS featured an analysis of the speech by David Brooks of the New York Times and Mark Shields ex of the Washington Post. Both are respected commentators whom I usually enjoy reading and hearing. This time I found their analysis less than enlightening. It was full of he could have said this…he should have said that…he didn’t say this…I wished he’d said that. I turned the broadcast off and switched to NCIS. How desperate can one be?
I’m so tired of commentators of every political stripe playing the he could of—he should of game that in desperation I’ve retreated occasionally to watching prime time TV. And prime time is so bad; I’m reading more books than ever. I agree with Shields and Brooks, the speech is unlikely to rank with the Gettysburg Address or “I Have a Dream…” But I wonder how the Gettysburg Address would have fared had it been subjected to modern media analysis. It might have gone something like this:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth…
Fox News—In selecting 1776 and the American War of Revolution as the origin of our nation, Mr. Lincoln blatantly displayed his anti-Pilgrim bias. The Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in 1492. This should be the truly hallowed date noted as the origin of our nation. The fact that Mr. Lincoln ignored the Pilgrims is proof of his anti-religious bias. It’s rumored by some the President has little use for the Church of England. He might even be a Baptist.
MSNBC—It’s upsetting that Mr. Lincoln in his address at Gettysburg paid tribute only to “our fathers.” What about our mothers? Clearly Mr. Lincoln is anti-feminist. Furthermore, to say our nation was conceived in liberty is disingenuous. It ignores our history. Our nation was really conceived in the bloodshed of intermittent military campaigns since the landing of the Dutch in New York.
The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here…
Fox News—While much of Mr. Lincoln’s speech is of questionable merit, the one truth spoken is, “The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here…” Mr. Everett’s two hour speech preceding the President’s address was eloquent and memorable. Mr. Lincoln’s comments, as he himself said, are of “little note.”
MSNBC—History will decide whether, as Mr. Lincoln conjectured, his speech will soon be forgotten. But we heartily endorse his acknowledgement that “…we can never forget what they did here.” The sacrifices of families on both sides of our conflict need to be immortalized.…This government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Fox News—The President’s phrase, “…this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth,” has a certain ring to it. Whether he stole these words from Daniel Webster or Chief Justice John Marshall is unclear. It does, however, smack of plagiarism. Congress should investigate. Furthermore, Mr. Lincoln must follow these lofty goals with action. He must lead the charge toward just tariffs and the restructure of financial markets. Most of all, he must secure the borders of our nation against aliens. Actions, not words, are what our country needs.
MSNBC—We heartily endorse the clarion call for “…government of the people, by the people, for the people…” We’ve moved beyond government by the landed aristocracy. Now, white men, freed black men, Christians, Catholics and those of other faiths must work together to guarantee this new birth of freedom.
You get the picture. The Gettysburg Address would have been trashed had it originated in the Oval Office of 2010. I guess my disenchantment with commentators is in part a recognition that commentators are paid to comment. They have to say something. They know their comments will be forgotten in a millisecond and that could have, should have, would have, is impossible to prove or disprove.
Also, I’m old enough to claim curmudgeon status with pride. My comments are just as valid as theirs, or anyone else’s. It’s just that they get paid and, regrettably, are all too frequently heard.
John Siegfried, a former Rehoboth resident, lives in Ft. Lauderdale. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.