Motives in the Dark

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Jan. 1, 2008 is the 145th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves in America. There has always been a historical debate over whether Lincoln’s motivations were honorable. I find that irrelevant. The bottom line is, that Lincoln freed the slaves. It was a good thing and he should be remembered for it.

Let me add I understand that Lincoln also undermined a lot of the Constitution – and I’m not suggesting that he be let off the hook for that. Nor am I suggesting that the trade of the Constitution for Emancipation was a good one.

In politics, things are never what they seem. A bad man may do a good thing, if only to save his reputation. Bill Clinton signed the bill rescinding the federal 55-m.p.h. speed limit. I know the Republican-led Congress had him over a barrel and, if he could have gotten away with vetoing the bill, he would have. But he signed it. And I am grateful every time I cross the border into South Dakota and see a sign saying “Speed Limit 75.” A victory is a victory, however it’s achieved.

Say, for instance, that you are in a D.C. public park around midnight being held up at gunpoint. At that very minute, Sen. Larry Craig ambles into the same park. Craig’s wide stance scares off the gunman. Would you be any less grateful to the senator, knowing that he hadn’t ambled in to save your life? Of course not.

Unfortunately, the debate over Lincoln deserving historians’ laurels still gets stuck on the issue of slavery. It forces people who disagree with the Civil War into the uncomfortable position of defending slavery.

While I understand that a lot of libertarians enjoy the opportunity for debate that such a ticklish subject spawns, I would discourage it. Especially if you’re in a D.C. public park around midnight.

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