Congressional Republicans are taking in a movie. They are getting a lesson in art of compromise by watching Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. In the latest epic motion picture, President Abraham Lincoln (played by Daniel Day Lewis) and Secretary of State William Seward (played by David Strathairn) conspire to create a plan to encourage the House of Representatives to pass the 13th Amendment to end slavery.
To understand the premise of compromise during 19th Century politics, please examine the 1860 Republican convention, which pitted the nationally revered Seward against a dark horse Lincoln. After the GOP made their stunning selection, they were assured of winning the election, since the Democratic Party was fractured with candidates from the North and the South. Just as President Obama selected his primary opponent, Hillary Clinton, as his new Secretary of State, Lincoln turned to Seward and offered him the esteemed position. He accepted with the caveat that if Seward disagreed with the president, his point of view would be considered.
DANIEL DAY LEWIS (w/ DAVID STRATHAIRN)
In 1865, Lincoln was re-elected on the promise of ending the Civil War. But, he disagreed with Seward as to when this might exactly happen. The president believed Congress should first put an end to slavery by Federal law, while Seward believed the Emancipation Proclamation was a de facto de facto executive order by Lincoln; part of his role as Commander-in-Chief. Moreover, the Secretary of State thought it to be a waste of political capital to try and pass an iffy law in a separate branch of government, especially since he was convinced Lincoln and the Republicans would lose.
Based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book, Team of Rivals, the film documents the effort to pass the 13 Ammendment by Lincoln and Seward. They resort to patronage, bribery, patriotic rhetoric, and the nuanced (if gritty) art of politics, so the 16th President’s legacy would be assured as he approached his Second Term of Office. While I’m not suggesting today’s Congress end the so-called Fiscal Cliff on the seedy promises of money, insider jobs, pork barrel spending, or infuence; this cinematic effort celebrates our Founding Fathers hope that our government works through compromise, and the noble concept of… We the People… as a collective and representative effort to solve this nation’s ills.
WILLIAM H. SEWARD DAVID STRATHAIRN
May I also endorse, here and now, a David Strathairn nomination for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in his role as Secretary of State William Seward. His distinguished career now includes a most appropriate feather in his proverbial cap. I hope the voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are listening. Of course, I’m willing to compromise and lend my support to Tommy Lee Jones for his performance as Senator Thaddeus Stevens.
It’s little wonder Steven Spielberg decided to withold the release of Lincoln until after the results of the 2012 presidential election.
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