My friend, Tom Del Beccaro, who was recently elected to the post of Vice Chairman of the California Republican Party, publishes an online political magazine, Political Vanguard. Today he published an article he wrote relaying a conversation between George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Nancy Pelosi. I am reposting it here because it is so on point.
A CONVERSATION FOR THE AGES
Washington & Lincoln Sit Down
with Nancy Pelosi
In Washington’s Mt. Vernon sitting room, if time had fewer limits, perhaps this is a conversation they would have . . .
Washington: Good evening Mr. President.
Lincoln: Good Evening Mr. President, but, if you will, please call me Abe.
Washington: Thank you Sir, I shall take advantage of such courtesy. Please refer to me as George. I know your travels were long so please stay the evening if not more.
Lincoln: George, I know of your reputation of being far too kind to travelers. So I shall stay tonight. But I shall not overextend my stay as so many others have.
Washington: I am pleased you will stay. Now, in these moments before Madame Pelosi arrives, pray tell, what are your thoughts of these times in which she lives.
Lincoln: They bear a certain resemblance to mine and yours I must say. This President Bush has many doubters, those looking for peace, disappointed by war, occasionally forgetting that true peace is often just an interlude brought on – not by avoidance – but by vigilance.
Washington: Well said, I know in my own time the prospects of our Revolutionary War were more than doubted. In any case, here she comes; let us see what wisdom she can impart on the ages.
Good evening Madame Speaker.
Speaker Pelosi: Good Evening President Washington and President Lincoln.
Washington: Welcome. We have been anxious to speak with you – to understand your perspective. Let us start, if you please, with your view of the Iraq war.
Pelosi: Thank you for speaking with me. I regret to say, however, that it is a failed war. Too many men have died. Our President Bush misled the American people to get them into the war and he has proven to be a very poor Commander in Chief. It is time for us to leave that country. This war has gone on far too long.
Lincoln: If I may, Mr. President.
Washington: Of course, Mr. President.
Lincoln: Madame Speaker, you recall, I trust, that my critics claimed that I lied to get the North into the Civil War. Indeed, at the time a Democrat parodied me with the following:
“Honest old Abe, when the war first began,
Denied abolition was part of his plan;
Honest old Abe has since made a decree,
The war must go on till the slaves are all free.
As both can’t be honest, will some one tell how,
If honest Abe then, he is honest Abe now?”
I tell you this because the reasons to go to war are always much easier to criticize than to justify. As for those that have given their lives in honor of their Country, my own Union Army lost over 7,000 men in the battle of Cold Harbor – more than twice our losses in the 4 years of the Iraq War.
I could never say, however, that my men or any soldier in service of his Country died in vain. In the case of the Civil War, the world’s last best hope was saved.
It is my view, therefore, that the battles of a war, however painful in losses, are not the final arbiter of its purpose. Even at their depths, there are fights which must be undertaken despite their odds.
Washington: Of that last sentiment I know something. Few believed our Revolutionary War would succeed let alone the many that doubted it purpose.
Pelosi: But this President has fought this war so poorly that it is lost.
Washington: Perhaps I know even more about that sentiment. Indeed, as Commander of the Continental Army I am very proud of our victory. But humility and honesty requires me to confess that I lost more battles than I won. Indeed, I lost the battle of New York, and our Capital Philadelphia and overall spent many a month in retreat. Such are the vicissitudes of War. I too must agree with President Lincoln, however, that losses change not the nobility of your purpose.
Pelosi: Maybe so, but this President has failed to properly equip our soldiers and risks still greater losses.
Washington: Madame Speaker, we founded a nation on much less. My army was poorly clothed. We lived in crowded tents through the desperate cold of winter and ran short of supplies. We did so when we were facing the most powerful army in the world, the army of King George. Would you have wanted us to wait until our provisions were of great supply? If so, that war for freedom never would have been fought.
Remember too that we fought 8 years to give you freedom. Given our population at the time, I gather you would have declared that our losses were catastrophic. The patience of history, I believe, views them otherwise.
Pelosi: But you were fighting for democracy, we can have no assurance there will be democracy in the Middle East.
Lincoln: If I my may speak on President Washington’s behalf in this regard.
Lincoln: At the time our first Commander fought for liberty, there was no example of a working democracy in the world let alone the over 200 democracies of which you know today. The people of his day were allured by the reasoning of Locke and expected the Enlightenment to reach our shores as it had no where else. But they had no assurances. Indeed, they had no clear example at all. In that light, and against those odds, their achievement ranks among history’s greatest.
Washington: Thank you kind Sir.
Lincoln: Not at all, it is on your path that freedom walks.
Pelosi: I see, but I am afraid that the criticism of our Media will not allow for this war to go forward even if we had your wisdom.
Lincoln: Oh my dear Madame, you know little of our history. I was excoriated by the press of our time. I was called “a slangwhanging stump speaker” and a “half-witted usurper.” Newspapers called my Gettysburg address “dishwatery.” President Washington was described as a “scourge and misfortune.” As for the conduct of the war, I am reminded of General Robert E. Lee’s comments during the Civil War:
“Why, it appears that we appointed all of our worst generals to command the armies and we appointed all of our best generals to edit the newspapers. I mean, I found by reading a newspaper that these editor generals saw all of the defects plainly from the start but didn’t tell me until it was too late. I’m willing to yield my place to these best generals and I’ll do my best for the cause by editing a newspaper.”
Washington: A wise man really, as are many Virginians, wouldn’t you say Mr. President?
Lincoln: Yes indeed.
Washington: Well, it is getting late Madame Speaker and we are understandably tired. We have crossed oceans of time to speak with you today. Before we retire, please know that during my Presidency, I resisted joining a political party hoping to demonstrate that true leadership rises above partisanship. During this important time, we hope you understand as much.
Also, keep in mind that in every age there are pacifists. Often they demand peace at any cost. In those same ages, however, history is witness to those much less refined for which the only realm they know is derived from misused power and the only currency they trade is violence.
It is for that reason I said long ago that “There is nothing so likely to produce peace as to be well prepared to meet the enemy.” Another great Virginian, our 3rd President, Jefferson later said that “Whatever enables us to go to war, secures our peace.” Perhaps more appropriate to your age of terrorism, Jefferson also stated: “An insult unpunished is the parent of many.” In your time, President Reagan understood as much when he counseled for “Peace through strength.”
Keep those sentiments in mind and know that leadership concerns itself little with vanity but, instead, with the greater good of all humanity.