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25 February 2013


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I am reasonably sure the movie is about passing the 13th amendment and that and winning a war got Mr. Lincoln a nice monument on the Mall, his face on Mt. Rushmore and the capital of Nebraska named after him.

Paul Escobar

Mr. Lang,

Spielberg is a popular institution.

I believe "they" would like to perceived as "making" someone or something that has not yet achieved "critical mass".

In this, they are not so different than other "elite" cultural consumers/observers...who instinctively dismiss anything touched by the masses as "spoiled".

Institutions with such a disposition can be annoying...but their "approval" is useful in incentivizing experimentation outside the norm. Sooner or later, such innovation influences the popular culture.

So, IMO, things probably are as they should be.

William R. Cumming

Actually PL Lincoln was a wealthy lawyer who gained that wealth by representing the railroads especially those that wanted to cross the continent. Most in that business were specialists in corrupting officialdom including giving railroad bonds to Members of Congress.
And of course he lost his Senate bid to Douglas! And served only one term in Congress after opposing the Mexican War.


Looks like something to add to my reading list sir. One on my current stack is Wyeth's "That Devil Forrest" . . . I'm about half way through, but it has so many other contenders, so much to read and so little time to read it.


Col, you should go see Lincoln. It is excellent and makes great effort at historical accuracy.

 Larry Kart

E-mail I sent to a friend:

'About "Lincoln," in retrospect I like it less and less, in particular, the almost absurdly stagy encounter between Lincoln and the two black soldiers early on, this after the images of their comrades and Confederates in a recent veritable bloodbath of hand-to-hand combat; as in in "Pvt. Ryan," I found such scenes to be virtually pornographic in (unconscious?) intent and effect.

'In any case, I liked/found convincing the impersonations by Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field for the most part but thought Tommy Lee Jones' performance was by the numbers and near impossible. Also, Kushner's script seemed quite squishy dramatically when it came to the supposedly near-crucial effect on the House of Thaddeus Stevens' about face to "moderation." Everyone in that body would have been familiar with Stevens' long track record as a "radical" on the subject, so why would any of them had believed that this new tack of his was anything but a momentary ploy? Is there any historical evidence that his remarks changed anyone's vote? In the context of the film, which up to a point is what counts, it sure seemed unlikely.'


You are pointing to something that I always found curious about things European. Centralizers (and other do-gooders-via-government) in US are far more insistent on controlling everything than their counterparts in Europe, especially Northern Europe. Through their deeds, they are deserving of the deep suspicion they get (and are generating) among their countrymen who happen to disagree with them. Scandanavians, in particular, are a marvel to me in their ability to get things done together across political divides...


Things move in weird cycles. For a whole generation, about a hundred years ago, those were the ONLY things that people talked about. Over the next century, the tide has turned 180 degrees and we pretend as if those things never happened (as those who talked only of the tragedy that befell the South pretended that other sordid things leading up to the Civil War never existed.) Either we learn history to realize how complicated things really were or to learn the sanitized whitewashed versions thereof that consign important pieces of history to non-events. Unfortunately, we do so much of the latter and hardly any of the former (and the trend seems headed in the "wrong" direction...)


I watched Lincoln and, from my very limited viewpoint, I concur with the academy: the film was very enjoyable, but the really outstanding part was the performance of the actors. Day-Lewis, Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones were all excellent.

Contrarily to previous comments, I thought the film did show the ambiguity, or at least the trade-offs, in Lincoln's moral compass (e.g. suggesting he was willing to deliberately prolong the war in order to ensure the passing of the emancipation law).

All in all I found it both an enjoyable and interesting movie. YMMV.

steve g

Has there ever been anything written about
what the country would have looked like if
the South had been allowed to secede? Would
there have been three autonomous regions, North
South, and West, each one following its own
path and interests. Would it not have been
similiar to the original Articles of Confed-
eration construct?



I heard Kushner on NPR. Postwar dealings with the South were mishandled? That's an understatement. As Kushner states in the article you link to, which can be summed up in one line: "I believe that Lincoln was a moral visionary as well as a peerless politician."

That's what turned me off to Kushner. Lincoln was neither, he was a fallible human being and a professional politician. A 'peerless politician' would have been able to craft a compromise that would have allowed a functioning federal government to continue and allow the time necessary for social changes that would have led to legal emancipation. Lincoln did nothing of the kind. I'm sure the acting, however is excellent, which is of course the point of the Oscars, though their awards are surely bound up in the politics of Hollywood.


I attended high school in the late 70s in northern Ohio. Two things that have stuck with me from my history teacher; Lincoln wasn't all that, and that slaves, in general, were treated well, as they were a valuable commodity owned largely by small farmers.


"suggesting he was willing to deliberately prolong the war in order to ensure the passing of the emancipation law"

Is that true though? Lincoln was under serious pressure to resolve the war as quickly as possible. Domestic opposition was very real, and the election of 64 was no sure thing.


Maybe the Academy dislikes Spielberg for the same reason critics disliked Steinbeck when he was alive. The critics said his writing was simple and sentimental though he was extremely popular with the general public. Both tell stories the average person can identify with and I think their popularity makes some people jealous.

The only movie I have seen that was up for an Oscar was 5 Broken Cameras, an important movie I was hoping would win. Having Michele Obama give her "we need to all work together" speech and announce the winner for Best Picture was cheap propaganda.


The Oscars: a metaphor for the entire United States?

Where is J. G. Ballard when you need him? The Oscars call for something like his "The Assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy Considered as a Downhill Motor Race".



Turtledove's world included time travelers from apartheid S Africa who delivered AK-47s for the CS Army and nitro pills for Lee's heart. To their chagrin turtledove'a Boers discovered that the South was less racist than they were. there is a lot othis kind of alternative history stuff, usually wildly divergent depending on the writer's inclinations.

IMO the two countries would have stabilised along predictable lines with a division of the pre-war US western territories, and had a booming trade economy based on open borders. There was actually a lot of North-South trade even during the war. The South would have abolished slavery on a compensated state by state basis. Such an institution was untenable in the Western world in the late 19th Century. pl

steve g

Thanks for the info.



Bloody Kansas and the hot heads on both sides assured that the Civil War would occur. I don’t think there was a Great Compromiser who could have calmed the coming storm let alone defeat Lincoln in the 1860 election. Southern Missouri was ethnically cleansed of Unionist in 1861-2. Today, who can compromise with our 21st Century Radical Republicans? President Obama sure has tried with no success so far.

General Lee’s strategic battle plan was ultimately a failure. The South could only have won with Longstreet’s defensive trench warfare to preserve the South’s fighting men and combined with emphasis on Mosby’s and Forrest’s guerrilla tactics elsewhere. A stalemated war and thousands and thousands of deaths later combined with a prolonged guerrilla campaign, I doubt this would have led to booming trade but more likely another war later similar to how World War Two followed World War One.

The Compromise of 1877 that led to the departure of Union troops was the great betrayal to the four million former slaves in the South. Race relations and wealth inequality still are not settled in our lifetimes and color all of our politics. Left unresolved, they will lead to a third revolution in the coming generations; not to mention, the Forever Wars, Climate Change and Corporate Corruption which our politics are also failing to address.



"I don’t think there was a Great Compromiser who could have calmed the coming storm." No. Stephen Douglas's election would not have led to war. The South shot itself in the foot by backing Breckinridge and Bell in 1860. If they had not done that Lincoln would not have been elected. Forrest was not a guerrilla. "Longstreet's trench warfare?" I don't know what you are talking about. IMO the South should never have sought decisive offensive battles with the North. the North was too strong in resources for that. Antietam, Gettysburg, Franklin, Malvern Hill; these were all errors of grand strategy. I don't find fault with Lee's conception of strategic offense in Pennsylvania and Maryland but his insistnce on fighting offensive battles during those campaigns were fatal errors. The proper conception would have been to bleed the North white in men and will in its efforts to invade the South. Another war? Who can know? There would not have been trade? you are wrong. commercial interests in th North would have dealt with that. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that historical outcomes were inevitable. pl


So let me get this right. You think it would be okay for your wife and your children to be sold to the highest bidder. What a guy.



Yes, you taught at West Point and are correct that if Stephan Douglas was elected President civil war may have been adverted.

It is just that the hot heads in the South would never have voted for an Illini Democrat. That is like expecting Ted Cruz, Texas' Junior Senator, to vote for Barrack Obama.

I was raised with the Pacific Northwest version of “The Lost Cause” that Union victory was inevitable. After living through three endless wars, this is clearly not the case.

The South from the start should have killed as many Northerners as possible with the fewest causalities. In hindsight this requires trenches and unconventional warfare. I was thinking of the entrenchment at Spotsylvania which was quickly built as Grant moved south after the Battle of the Wilderness. Even, Grant admitted that the assault on the fortifications at Cold Harbor gained no advantage for the heavy losses sustained. Grant was stalemated at Petersburg but by then Lee didn’t have enough men to extend the trenches like WWI through the rest of Virginia and Grant flanked Lee the next Spring.

Besides, Lee’s Southern Chivalry, Sherman marching north through the Carolinas assured the war ended with the stacking of arms at Appomattox instead of continuing into our century.



"The South from the start should have killed as many Northerners as possible with the fewest causalities"

Yes, the tactical defensive is the stronger form, so, they should have fought battles on the defensive whenever they could. UW on a large scale would have complemented this nicely.

I taught Arabic and ME Studies at WP. I taught CW studies to analysts at the Joint Military Intelligence College as an adjunct professor while I was head of ME and South Asia intelligence at DIA. pl


Oh I hit four instead of three. You got me there. I'm glad you can find time to respond to that as opposed to vanishing the moment you're called out for your outright lies in any firearms/immigration post.

Chairman Miao

I'm puzzled by the thought that the Academy does not respect Steven Spielberg. He has two Best Director awards, for "Schindler's List" in 1994 and "Saving Private Ryan" in 1998.

I had thought the Academy would give him a 3rd Best Director award for "Lincoln." This would have elevated him to one of the immortals. The only directors to win more than two Academy Awards are: John Ford (4 wins), Frank Capra (3), William Wyler (3).

Spielberg's 2 Best Director wins ties him with: Billy Wilder, George Stevens, Joseph Mankewicz and David Lean, to name a few great filmmakers.


it's simple. in hollywood alone, speilberg is seen as a mogul first and a filmmaker second. lots of folks have worked for him, lots more haven't. as chairman miao points out, he already shares oscar rank with his betters wilder and lean. But for this year at least, the voting constituency staved off his run at kingship.

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