Tom Cotton and Iowa

This state’s junior U.S. senator and senior statesman Tom Cotton showed up to address a group of Iowans visiting Washington the other day to promote that state’s economicand political—interests. The senator may have had his own interests to promote, for Iowa is the first in the nation when it comes to holding presidential caucuses. “If you’re a Democrat,” he told the group, “you’re probably going to be seeing [a presidential candidate] every weekend now for the next three years.” But if you’re a Republican hopeful, how distinguish yourself among what could be a crowded field in the future? Tom Cotton found a way to do just that, pointing out that his connection with Iowa is close indeed. “I’m the only one,” he told the crowd, “who loves Iowa so much I married a woman born there.”

If the rest of his remarks were less original, Senator Cotton had the good sense to borrow from the best—a Republican named Abraham Lincoln who addressed a group of U.S. soldiers from Ohio back in August 1864, when the Union was still in danger. How little the great issues have changed since those fateful days can be appreciated and apprehended by noting Mr. Lincoln’s remarks on that occasion. For not only was his re-election as president and commander-in-chief in doubt at the time but so was the very survival of the republic. And this is what he said:

“It is not merely for today, but for all time to come that we should perpetuate for our children’s children this great and free government, which we have enjoyed all our lives. . . . It is in order that each one of you may have through this free government which we have enjoyed an open field and a fair chance for your industry, enterprise and intelligence: that you may all have equal privileges in the race of life, with all its desirable human aspirations. It is for this the struggle should be maintained, that we may not lose our birthright—not only for one but for two or three years. The nation is worth fighting for to secure such an inestimable jewel.”

Mr. Lincoln, as was his way, spoke not just for his generation but for the ages. Wouldn’t it be something if more of today’s presidential candidates did?

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