As entire groups of his former supporters abandon him in waves – business leaders who have pushed for both economic and environmental deregulation, military commanders, a growing number of Republicans in Congress – Donald Trump hunkers down and lashes out. He shows no interest in bringing us together, in healing our wounds. He seems a man, a president, wholly without empathy, and without that he is no good to us now, for he cannot, he will not, heal us.
“With the exception of the late, great Abraham Lincoln,” he said last month, “I can be more presidential than any president that’s ever held this office.”
Lincoln’s entire presidency was consumed by civil war, and yet, from his first speech to his last, he strived to heal the country. In times far more trying than any Donald Trump has ever faced, these are the last paragraphs from each of Lincoln’s inaugural addresses. His language is a measure of how far we have fallen.
March 4, 1861 First Inaugural
“I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
March 4, 1865 Second Inaugural
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”