Gene’s Blog


”The buck stops with everybody.” October 10, 2019

(Donald Trump’s version of the statement on a famous plaque on the desk of President Harry Truman: “The buck stops here.”)

Immigrants do NOT commit more violent crimes than native-born Americans. Overwhelmingly, studies prove that immigration does not lead to higher crime rates; if anything, it may actually reduce them.
Here’s a short power phrase Lincoln used that you may work for you, too when you have to make a difficult choice.  
If you’d like to skip the details, the power phrase is One war at a time.
Here’s the backstory.
It’s become known to historians as the Trent Affair, an incident that inflamed passions between Great Britain and the US during the first year of the Civil War.
An American warship had stopped a British vessel named The Trent in open seas and forcibly removed and imprisoned two Confederate diplomats.
The British demanded their immediate release or else. “Else” could mean recognizing the Confederacy or worse, going to war on the side of the Confederacy.
Releasing the prisoners would look weak, and war fever was running high. Bowing to British demands would not be popular.
Abraham Lincoln spent his first Christmas day as president with his cabinet locked in a discussion about what to do.
Fighting both the British and the Confederacy was an unthinkable option.
Lincoln cut through to reality with one phrase:
One war at a time.
You can use that same phrase as a way of thinking about a choice between one outcome that is extremely costly and one that will have catastrophic consequences. In other words, you decide which is the worse outcome.
Trump has said if we don’t think a wall will work we should ask the Israelis.
Perhaps we should also ask the Russians how well walls work.  The Berlin Wall didn’t work out all that well.
Maybe we should ask the Chinese how the Great Wall of China worked.  (Hint.The Manchu Qing marched through it and overthrew the wall-building Ming dynasty. )
Or maybe we should ask the Romans how Hadrian’s Wall worked. (Hint. It was abandoned within three decades after it was built.)
There’s a big lesson to be learned from the history of walls. They’re really expensive to build, maintain and man, and soon or later they become relics, usually sooner than later.
There’s a larger question to ask. How in the world did the United States manage to survive, indeed thrive, for going on three centuries without a big, beautiful wall?
If we must have a wall in order to be a nation, don’t we need to start building a northern wall to save us from the Canadians?


Lincoln and Obama Cartoons
This is a fascinating Obama–Lincoln parallel—a political cartoon published during Lincoln’s presidency that depicts Lincoln as an African king. (Source: 2014 edition of “Lincoln and Obama” by Gene Griessman. Courtesy Houghton Library, Harvard University)


The controversy over Robert Gates’ new book “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War” has raised important questions about how presidents should deal with the military.  I have not read Gates’ book, so I should not comment on it. But I have been asked to comment on how Lincoln dealt with his generals and admirals and other military advisors. See More

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