Indulge me, please, in my fascination with The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. There are shades of Lincoln in this unfolding story so deep as to block out the very sun itself.
Here is Gov. Rod Blagojevich: "I'm going to ask him [the new director] to take this presidential library that has, very frankly, failed every expectation and turn it into the most exciting, the most dynamic and the most successful presidential library in the nation."
Memories of unsuccessful generals crowd in. Is the governor channelling Bruce Catton here? Apparently so: "I'm going to ask Richard Norton Smith to move mountains over the next several years," the governor said during a midday ceremony at the downtown library..." The governor finds a general!
There is more: according to this newspaper, the facility "isn't expected to open to the public until next spring, nearly a year and a half after its November 2002 'grand opening.'" So, we are replacing some cautious overpreparing parade ground type with the new Grant model. His mandate will be action. Yes, Catton's fingerprints are all over this story.
Remember in your Cattonized histories how there is this moment when Grant assumes command and Lincoln tells Stanton that they "have bossed this job" long enough and the time has come to give the new chief general full sway? Try this on:
"Our job has to be to give him and others who are experts free rein to do it right and keep the politics out of it," the governor said.
John Y. Simon, the editor of Grant's papers, has shown what nonsense this Lincoln comment was and exactly how Grant continued to be bossed. What makes the governor's comment funny is that he has already decided by what device he will boss this job politically. It is a Lincolnian device:
The governor noted that Susan Mogerman, the former Illinois Historic Preservation Agency director who now heads Downtown Springfield Inc., "is going to play a big role" in the project. Two weeks ago, Deputy Gov. Bradley Tusk said she is the only person being considered for the presidential library's No. 2 post.
This was Lincoln's preferred way of monitoring and influencing his generals: Scott is assigned McDowell as number two; Fremont gets a Hunter as number two; McClellan gets no less than four Republican corps commanders; Rosecrans gets Garfield; Grant gets a special commissioner from the War Department (Dana); all oblige the president, who encourages frequent reports. It starts as early as Fort Sumter with Abner Doubleday denouncing his boss, Major Robert Anderson, to the president.
Ms. Mogerman will be the Illinois governor's eyes, ears, voice, and occasionally hands within the library. If Smith makes a false move, a political mistake, or if he suddenly decides that history is not entertainment or tourism, the governor will know immediately and have the means to counteract.
And why not? Lincoln managed the war this way. Does Smith know that? Doesn't matter because he will now live it.