Spielberg's film, contrary to its title, is not an all-encompassing portrait of Lincoln's life. Screenwriter Tony Kushner (drawing from Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals) focuses squarely on the final four months of the president's life, when he took advantage of (and quite possibly delayed) the end of the Civil War to pass the 13th Amendment. In order to do so, he and Secretary of State William Seward had to bring together several diametrically opposed factions—conservative and radical Republicans, moderates, and lame-duck Democrats—and get their votes.
It was a noble cause, but it was not always nobly achieved. Though the gang of political operatives Seward brings in to wrangle up the votes is explicitly instructed not to engage in monetary bribes, jobs are offered to the outgoing Dems. Outright lies are told to opposing forces. Politics are played, without apology. And, most importantly, compromises are made in order to get something vital accomplished. "We shall oppose each other in the course of time," Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) tells Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones). "For now, we're working together."
That line rang particularly true at the movie theater in uptown Manhattan where Lincoln's media screening was held, relocated from its previous location across the street from the hanging crane famously made terrifying by Sandy. Of course, one of the top political stories of the last few days has been the warmth and cooperation between New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and President Barack Obama—two men who have opposed each other vociferously and certainly will again. For now, they're working together, and it's the kind of thing that should be inspiring. However, because Christie has gone out of his way to publicly thank the president and applaud his hands-on assistance, he's been called a traitor by Romney supporters. Rush Limbaugh, with total lack of self-awareness, labeled Christie "fat and a fool." (He also said he is gay, because when you get right down to it, Limbaugh is a fifth-grade bully.)
Is there some sort of ulterior motive for Christie's embrace of the president? Certainly there are plenty of theories. But it's worth marveling that the partisan political climate in this country is such a nightmare that the actual sight of a Republican and Democrat working together on something is not just noteworthy, but newsworthy. Lincoln brings into sharp focus the simple fact that it shouldn't be.
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