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If Obama wants to act like Lincoln, he has to act now.

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There are many valid complaints against this administration. Lack of intelligence is not one of them. This president, more than most, is a very focused and thoughtful person. He is not impulsive. He is analytical and works through details with the end in mind.

Out of respect for his abilities, personality, character, and knowledge, I'm willing to consider the possibility he may be making the best choices possible. I am not saying they are good choices. There are times when life doesn't leave you with good options.

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After careful consideration, I think I can focus on one strategic mistake that gives rise to most of the complaints I have. If that problem were addressed, it would help a lot of the symptomatic problems that bedevil us.

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Inthe original piece I wrote in support of Obama almost two years ago, Doubting Obama, I reached this conclusion:

We are not seeking to canonize a saint. We are seeking to hire a chief executive we reasonably believe will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of his ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Itwas clear on the day of his inauguration that Obama had taken that oath of office to heart. When someone is more conversant with the presidential oath of office than the Chief Justice of the United States, he has obviously given itconsiderable thought.

If you take fidelity to the Constitution and use it as a yardstick to measure Obama's performance compared to his predecessor's, it is also clear which one has dutifully executed the responsibilities of his office. There is no point in rehashing the many crimes committed by the one who allegedly described the Constitution as "nothing more than a goddamned piece of paper." Whether Bush said that or not, his actions were certainly consistent with that sentiment.

Over the centuries many presidents have faced Constitutional issues. Some have dealt with existential issues that put them in conflict with the Constitution. Consider Lincoln's position in September 1862. The decisions he made at that moment serve as a lens through which we can more clearly understand decisions made by the current president in his own time.

I am deliberately conflating the two presidents because the office they occupy is the same. The challenge they face is the same. The obligation they hold is the same.

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The question is, "How does the president enforce the Constitutional relationships between all parties in ways that withstand Constitutional challenges?"

In September 1862, the Civil War was going poorly for the Union. There had been no major victories in the field. Antietam changed that. The outcome was favorable enough that Lincoln could pretend it was, for political purposes, a major military victory.

The political purpose was his desire to issue an Executive Order stating the terms under which states in rebellion could safely return to the Union. His political judgment was that such a proclamation could only be issued from a position of strength and that is why he needed to overstate Antietam's outcome as a victory for the Union.

The executive order Lincoln issued by Lincoln was the first of two, which we now know as the Emancipation Proclamation. Most schools focus on the second one, issued on January 1st, 1863. However, I think the first one, issued a hundred days before that, provides the most insightful view of how Lincoln managed his role as constitutional steward.

The preliminary proclamation basically states:

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For starters, I am not the Henry Porter who writes for the Observer in Britain. I'm a native New Yorker living in Maryland. I used to believe knowledge was power. Now I know knowledge translated into action is power.

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