A former New York governor employs a sort of what-would-Jesus-do approach to viewing contemporary political issues through the eyes of Abraham Lincoln.
Cuomo (The New York Idea: An Experiment in Democracy, 1994, etc.) enlists the help of Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer (Lincoln at Cooper Union, p. 257) to construct this entertaining but tendentious survey of how Lincoln would view, or handle, contemporary issues. Cuomo declares that he has long been attracted to Lincoln for his “lucidity, the sureness of his logic, the cogency of his analysis, and the apparent reasonableness of his conclusions.” Unsurprisingly, Cuomo has no use for George Bush (père or fils)—or, for that matter, for many other contemporary Republicans. Feeling Cuomo’s lash here are Ronald Reagan (whom the author chides for attributing to Lincoln a series of things the Great Emancipator never wrote or said), Tom DeLay, Newt Gingrich, Strom Thurmond, et al. He blasts the current administration for numerous failures and misfeasances: for tax cuts that benefit the wealthy, for the assault on entitlements, for the war on Iraq (he says Lincoln would not have gone there), and—most seriously—for the failure to articulate a comprehensive vision of the future, a vision based on equality of opportunity for all. Acknowledging that all politicians want to claim Lincoln as their own (just as people on all sides of social issues cite biblical passages to support their causes), Cuomo takes us through a series of topics and then finds quotations from Lincoln to indicate how he might have responded—e.g., war, civil liberties, the size of the federal government, equal opportunity, globalism, religion, the courts, and race. Near the end, Cuomo fashions a state-of-the-union address for 2004 using Lincoln’s ideas and words. It recommends deferring tax cuts, reducing the deficit, investing in education and health care, and helping the states. Sounds remarkably like a platform Cuomo would like to see the Democrats adopt this summer.
Lively, Lefty, and—at times—laughable.