january 6

Gingrich Tries and Fails to Use Lincoln to Attack Biden

Partisan hack calls Biden partisan hack. Photo: Getty Images

No one could really expect MAGA Republicans to appreciate, much less enjoy, Joe Biden’s blistering speech commemorating the anniversary of the insurrection we marked today. Many Republicans just ignored it, or pointed fingers at other alleged malefactors other than Trump. But one prominent Republican tried to tear Biden a new one without thinking it through very well:

Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, as it happens, was one of the most sternly partisan — in the sense of defending one part of a country riven by civil war against the other — major speeches ever. Yes, it offered peace and reconciliation to the Confederates, but only after they had either surrendered or been crushed. No one who reads or reflects on these lines could think Lincoln’s main purpose was that of “bringing us together”:

Fondly do we hope — fervently do we pray — that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.”

Lincoln was on a mission to ensure that not a single rebel imagined that, as the president of a stricken and depleted nation, he would entertain a negotiated settlement that would restore the status quo ante prior to the war. He offered not a whit of hope for those soon to be defeated to snatch victory from its jaws, vindicating their insurrection. He offered precisely the sort of qualified “unity” Joe Biden did at Statuary Hall:

[W]hatever my other disagreements are with Republicans who support the rule of law and not the role of a single man, I will always seek to work together with them, to find shared solutions where it possible.

Because if we have a shared belief in democracy, that anything is possible. Anything.

Gingrich, hard as it is to believe lately, once taught history for a living (between political campaigns, that is). He presumably could have made an effort to find a more suitable speech to contrast with Biden’s, or at least limited his comparison to matters of style (few if any presidents have matched Lincoln’s eloquence, which is all the more remarkable since he was his own speechwriter).

Beyond that, Newt Gingrich of all people has no standing to attack anyone else as a “partisan hack.” I’ve been observing this man closely since the 1970s, and back when he was a far less tediously predictable purveyor of demagoguery, I described him as someone with the mind of a policy wonk and the soul of a ward heeler. For a long time now his mind has yielded to his soul.

The former Speaker’s initial reaction to the Capitol riot was to call its MAGA perpetrators “destructive barbarians” and “frankly criminals” who “should be treated that way and locked up.” You’d think he would appreciate Biden’s righteous indignation about the event on its anniversary at least enough to refrain from publicly joining the friends of the insurrection in smearing him.

Newt Gingrich Tries and Fails to Use Lincoln to Attack Biden