Obama’s ‘Lincolnesque’ Train Ride

Barack Obama has arrived back in Washington’s Union Station after recreating a historic train ride.  The papers are aflutter.

Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. came aboard President-elect Barack Obama's whistle-stop tour in Wilmington, Del. (Richard Perry/The New York Times)

Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. came aboard President-elect Barack Obama's whistle stop tour in Wilmington, Del. (Richard Perry/The New York Times)

Obama Makes His Way by Train to Washington (NYT)

President-elect Barack Obama stepped onto a vintage train car, built at a time when a black man’s ascendancy to the presidency was impossible in America, and traveled to Washington on Saturday in a three-day prelude to his inauguration as the country’s 44th president.

Obama rides the rails to DC, packing nation’s hope (AP)

Invoking hope and history, President-elect Barack Obama rolled into the capital city Saturday night pledging to help bring the nation “a new Declaration of Independence” and promising to rise to the stern challenges of the times. He kicked off a four-day inaugural celebration with a daylong rail trip, retracing the path Abraham Lincoln took in 1861.

Thousands fete Obama on slow train to Washington (AFP)

Cheered by rejoicing thousands, Barack Obama Saturday steeled Americans to conquer crises at home and abroad, launching his inaugural party with a triumphant train tour to Washington.

Obama’s train ride: Lincolnesque imagery (Chicago Tribune)

President-elect Barack Obama, calling on Americans to take up anew the principles of the nation’s founders, capped the inspirational message of a pre-inaugural train journey to Washington with a call for “a new declaration of independence.”

Look, I get that the ascendancy of a new president, especially one of a different party, to power is a big deal. And, of course, there’s something quite historic about a black man (even one who’s technically half white) becoming president when, within the lifetime of said black man, we had to pass federal legislation to ensure that people who looked like him could vote. And the fact that he is from Illinois, the same state as the man who “freed the slaves,” only adds to the imagery. I get it.

But here’s the thing: Barack Obama has been in DC for days and days. Half of DC was shut down so he and his family could stay at the Hay-Adams and his girls could start at their $30,000 a year (each!) private school on time. We know he was still in town as late as Thursday afternoon, where the objective reporters of the Washington Post were going ga-ga over his visit.

So, why in blazes is he pretending that this is 1860 and he’s arriving in DC for the first time from his home state?

We’re quite literally shutting down DC next Tuesday for him. All day. In fact, roads are already closing in anticipation of his inaugural. There are concerts going on this weekend. He’ll be sworn in at noon Tuesday, have a parade that lasts almost until dark, and have fancy ball after fancy ball going into the wee hours of the night. How much adulation does this guy need?

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Hey, show some respect to the messiah that can make the oceans recede and the planet heal.

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    Theater. I’m prepared to cut him some slack.

  3. dj says:

    As an Obama supporter, I agree that the inauguration stuff has been over the top. Luckily it will all be finished soon and we can move on to the next story.

    The whole thing is a lot easier to tune out for those of us who live and work, er, outside the beltway.

  4. Bithead says:

    It’s ego, of course.

  5. rodney dill says:

    He also believes we need a new declaration of independence… the moron.

  6. davod says:

    “As an Obama supporter, I agree that the inauguration stuff has been over the top. Luckily it will all be finished soon and we can move on to the next story”

    This is just the start of at least four years of over the top adulation. Next-the royal coaches will transport the Congress to the White House to hear The One’s State of The Union speech.

  7. Mithras says:

    Sometimes you smart guys don’t understand simple things. Millions of people, especially African-Americans, would like to attend the inauguration, but can’t. This tour provided some of them with a chance to be part of the inaugural celebration, to say “I was there.”

  8. anjin-san says:

    Ahhhh, the bitterness of the right. Enjoy the ashes boys, its all Bush left you.

  9. jabberwock says:

    Sometimes the smart guys don’t understand anything. In the present climate, isn’t it time to pull together, offer constructive ideas, and forget the divisive, snarky, comments that seem to dominate the political discussion of late? Red vs. blue is getting tiresome, as is bithead, triumph, kos, rush, andrew, and others of their ilk.

  10. markm says:

    Barack Obama has been in DC for days and days. Half of DC was shut down so he and his family could stay at the Hay-Adams and his girls could start at their $30,000 a year (each!) private school on time. We know he was still in town as late as Thursday afternoon, where the objective reporters of the Washington Post were going ga-ga over his visit.

    So, why in blazes is he pretending that this is 1860 and he’s arriving in DC for the first time from his home state?

    …maybe it’s promotion of Green Travel…part of the pork/stimulii pkg.. I hear the rugs at the inauguration are made out of reconstituted stuff n’ things…so at least the hullibilu will be Green….which will create jobs.

  11. […] it’s all for the adoration: As James (who lives in the metro Washington DC area) puts it, So, why in blazes is he pretending that this […]

  12. James says:

    I can understand the need for conservatives to grouse churlishly about all things inaugural. Really, I do. It should make the transition just that much sweeter, but mostly I think it’s kind of sad.

    One would hope that the gracious, inclusive signals by the Obama team, like the dinner with conservatives and some appointments, the proposed tax breaks and meetings with Republican Congress people would be returned, at least temporarily, in kind. But no, I pretty much expected that they wouldn’t.

    It’s pretty small to criticize an 8-hour train ride, though.

  13. Mithras says:

    It’s been so long since we had a popular President, maybe people have just forget what it’s like. If Bush had made that train trip, he would have been pelted with shoes.

  14. I find it disturbing that so many people place such hope in a politician. Any politician.

  15. anjin-san says:

    We’re quite literally shutting down DC next Tuesday for him. All day.

    Oh, you poor thing. How every will you endure?

    After the frigging nightmare George Bush has put this country through for 8 years, maybe we need a decent party.

    Half of DC was shut down so he and his family could stay at the Hay-Adams and his girls could start at their $30,000 a year (each!) private school on time.

    Hmmm. Maybe Bush could have given the word and let him stay at Blair House. And do you really think that members of the GOP elite don’t spend that kind of money on their kid’s school?

    Let’s see, the right has not been able to lay a glove on Obama, so they are reduced to whining about him going on a train ride and getting his kids a good education.

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  17. I have to admit, the train trip seems a bit much, especially since, as noted, he was already in DC.

    However, surely DC gets closed down all day every inauguration, with this year’s crowds being nothing more than a genuine expression of popular interest (and yes, the historical signif).

    One presumes DC was pretty much shut down for Reagan’s funeral procession as well.

  18. JKB says:

    Well, traditionally. upon change of command, the party is held for the outgoing commander. Presidential Inaugurations have always been a bit different though.

    I personally will be raising a glass Tuesday night to salute George Bush’s job well done. He had a trying command but met the challenges well.

    I don’t begrudge Obama his celebration though, come noon Tuesday, it is he who must rise to meet the challenges. I do think they are polishing his bell a little to brightly and it will show the tarnish that much more quickly. And tarnish it will once his hope and change meets pragmatic reality.

  19. Will says:

    Driving to Philly to take a train to DC. Spending $160+ million of taxpayer money for the inaugeration. Millions of people heading for DC to see a thirty second oath. All theater and no substance, like the man. Come on. Four years ago he was an unknown state legislator. His accomplishments? He campaigns well. That’s it people. He has never done anything. And the mob thinks he is the Messiah. How pitiful.

  20. anjin-san says:

    All theater and no substance, like the man.

    Of course. No substance. That explains how he punk-slapped the mighty GOP political machine. Fine analysis 🙂

  21. James says:

    Actually, the cost of the inauguration is not funded by taxpayers. In fact, it is entirely funded by private donors. The entire list of donors is available on the internet.

    Pitiful.

  22. Franklin says:

    Both the adulation and demonization of Obama is at least a little bit premature. A key milestone for many presidents is the first 100 days. Here we are, 102 days before that milestone.

    As I’ve said before, I’ll cast my judgment in four years.

  23. Brett says:

    I’m a supporter of Obama, and I’m getting annoyed at these continual, deliberate attempts to link him with Lincoln. Shouldn’t the first black President try to carve out his own legacy, like Lincoln did?

    In any case, it’s just an irritating set of PR stunts and celebrations. I’ll be grateful when the morning of January 21st comes by.

  24. […] end pollution, cool down global warming, but now he’s channeling Lincoln.  Fortunately I’m not the only person who thinks this is more than a little weird. “…We’re quite literally shutting down DC […]

  25. DL says:

    And Bush wears his jumpsuit for imagery and the media conscious leftists go bonkers, but this guy shows that he is nothing but a preowned image president thus far and he’s already in the history books as a composite of the greatest ever.

    By the way, Lincoln was in favor of deporting the slaves back to Africa. Is this train ride a wise choice for the One?

  26. sam says:

    How much adulation does this guy need?

    You got that right. I understand that they were trying to get an aircraft carrier moored someplace in the Potomac so he could land on it and be photographed under a giant “Mission Accomplished” banner. But they ran into trademark issues….

    And BTW, Bit, DL, Christopher, et al., you guys should buck up. Just think of all the opportunities you’ll have in the coming years to nuture that hard little turd of resentment that’s at the core your political being. Good times ahead, men, good times.

  27. odograph says:

    I watched a few minutes of Chris Mathews yesterday, as cameras watched the train. The thing I really noticed was that Chris, and his guests(*), and the people gathered on the streets, were giddy with happiness.

    You’ve got to be a bit of a meanie to rain on that.

    * – they looked ‘black’ to me James, I didn’t query them to see if they were only ‘half.’

  28. “The thing I really noticed was that Chris, and his guests(*), and the people gathered on the streets, were giddy with happiness”

    Did it send a shiver up his leg? Matthews pretends to be a real journalist. Why doesn’t he just admit to what he is — a liberal pundit?

  29. Nicole says:

    I can understand the need for conservatives to grouse churlishly about all things inaugural. Really, I do. It should make the transition just that much sweeter, but mostly I think it’s kind of sad.

    Give it a rest people. Those of us who live in the DC area on both sides of the aisle are complaining about the inauguration insanity. It’s not just “sad conservatives.”

  30. odograph says:

    I measure out as a centrist (www.politicalcompass.org), and Chris has aggravated me in both directions. I suspect that Chris is fairly moderate as well, but knows how to play the two sides of his audience. He runs his show like a Skinner box, giving treats and shocks to the two sides in turn.

  31. lunacy says:

    Chris Matthews being giddy is a horrifying image. If my thinking so makes me a meanie, I’ll take it.

  32. just me says:

    The train ride is theatre. I think especially as pointed out, Obama has been in DC and left DC to go to Illinois only to take a train back to DC.

    The media adulation will hopefully stop soon, and probably will given that there won’t be any demons named Bush to lay all the blame on, and at some point Obama has to own the things going on.

    I think Obama has more than gotten the Messiah treatment by the media and his supporters, but in the end I guess if there is a day to place a politician on a pedestal it would be on the day of inauguration. Where it will get old quickly is if it continues too much beyond the first month or two.

  33. James says:

    Those of us who live in the DC area on both sides of the aisle are complaining about the inauguration insanity.

    That’s true. I piss and moan whenever there’s a movie premiere down the street. How dare those moviegoers interfere with my personal comfort? Snort!

  34. PD Shaw says:

    Of course, Lincoln snuck into Washington in the middle of night. Some of the press suggested he had worn women’s clothing or a Scottish tam and military cloak. Actually, he wore an old coat and a soft hat. The only music heard was a drunkard singing “Dixie” as they arrived at Camden Station. On arrival at his suite, a death threat awaited him on a table, written with deliberateness of speech with the understanding that “you are nothing but a g*ddamn Black n*****.”

  35. anjin-san says:

    I think Obama has more than gotten the Messiah treatment by the media and his supporters

    No, actually the “messiah” nonsense has come from the right, who, not surprisingly, have nothing better to contribute to the discussion. They did not seem to be too worried about putting a President on a pedestal when their lips were vacuum welded to Bushs’s ass for all those years.

  36. Bithead says:

    Actually, the cost of the inauguration is not funded by taxpayers. In fact, it is entirely funded by private donors. The entire list of donors is available on the internet.

    Sorry, wrong answer. Look closer and you may note that a chunk of the ‘private contributors’ are companies recently bailed out by the taxpayer.

  37. caj says:

    It was a wonderful spectacle and PE Obama looked every bit the President…those who made sarcastic remarks are just so disappointed it wasn’t McCain and Palin up there!!!
    So sorry you lost but the better man won just get over it and move on!

  38. James says:

    Look closer and you may note that a chunk of the ‘private contributors’ are companies recently bailed out by the taxpayer.

    Yeah, why why don’t you just write an irate letter to your boy George W. Bush and his Treasury Secretary then. Last I heard they were still “in charge.”

  39. steve s says:

    Sometimes the smart guys don’t understand anything. In the present climate, isn’t it time to pull together, offer constructive ideas, and forget the divisive, snarky, comments that seem to dominate the political discussion of late? Red vs. blue is getting tiresome, as is bithead, triumph, kos, rush, andrew, and others of their ilk.

    I was thinking about this when Katon Dawson said he wanted to be Barack Obama’s worst nightmare. Really, Katon? You want to be a bigger enemy to the US President than Osama bin Laden? Are you sure that’s a noble goal?

    Anyway, yeah, the attention is a bit over the top, but not because us liberals perceive Obama as any kind of messiah. That’s mostly a dumb invention of the right. What we–and most Americans–are happy about is the end of one of the most destructive periods in our nation’s history, the last 8 years of mostly republican control. All I expect of Obama is that he’ll be generally competent, and that’s an enormous relief after the Grover Norquist/Tom Delay/George Bush era.

  40. This was bugging me too.

    I’ve quoted you and linked to you here.

  41. mannning says:

    Drudge Report has a piece that states the cost to DC, VA, and MD for the inauguration will top out at over $170 million. Private donors? Not nearly enough for this expense. What a start for this time of crashing markets and rising unemployment.

  42. davod says:

    “What we–and most Americans–are happy about is the end of one of the most destructive periods in our nation’s history, the last 8 years of mostly republican control.”

    Brought about by the lefts constant attack politics.