Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee stirred up a firestorm recently with his claim that the deal President Obama negotiated with Iran to prevent that country from obtaining nuclear weapons “will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven.” Most who weighed in, including fellow opponents of the deal, protested that Huckabee crossed a line in his criticism of the president.
I certainly agree that Huckabee, in an apparent desperate attempt to snatch some media attention away from fellow candidate Donald Trump, went way over the top in his charge. But as a student of the Civil War, I’m not shocked. Accusing the president of wicked intentions and malevolent actions is nothing new.
Look, for example, at some of the comments the Richmond Dispatch republished from Northern newspapers under the headline “Spirit of the Northern Press” in its issue of March 13, 1863:
The Detroit Free Press exclaimed that President Lincoln was worse than Napoleon or the Russian Czar in his attempt to “crush and exterminate ten millions of people, armed and united in the cause, which they esteem that of their liberty, their homes, and their honor.”
The editor of the Free Press apparently had no compunction about declaring Abraham Lincoln a mass murderer bent on “exterminating” millions of Southern patriots. The name Hitler hadn’t yet appeared in history, but if it had, it’s very probable the Free Press would have had little hesitation in declaring Lincoln the reincarnation of der Fuhrer.
Then there was the Fort Warren (Indiana) Sentinel, which was sure of “the determination of Lincoln, Stanton, and Halleck, to prevent Gen. McClellan or any of his friends – or, in fact, any Democratic General who designs carrying on the war for the salvation of the Union rather than to build up the Abolition party – from successfully carrying on a campaign.”
So, in the eyes (and columns) of the Sentinel, Lincoln and his Washington clique were deliberately and actively thwarting the efforts of faithful and brilliant generals like McClellan, because they didn’t want a Democrat to succeed in winning the war.
If Mike Huckabee wants to defend himself against those who complain that his statements about President Obama are outrageous, he can claim ample precedent by pointing back to how that other Illinois politician who served as commander-in-chief in time of war was characterized by his political enemies.
© 2015 Ronald E. Franklin