In his reedy voice, the man brokered a compromise that drove a nation. He plotted, finagled and deceived in a way that has to be admired, as well emulated both poorly and well, this chap of folk tales and deep belief managed something extraordinary - the 13th Amendment. He did by cajoling a fervent believer to bide his tongue (a political tactic a few "activists" could do well to learn), and by lauding his opponents as much, if not more, than his friends. He was a man who proved that "keeping your enemies closer" has its limits - his enemies would have done well to keep him closer, as he spurned them, derided them and undermined them.
In a tour-de-force of modern cinema, Daniel Day Lewis gives a man with both the foibles and worries of more ordinary men, and yet one who rose above what was expected and became one of history's Greats. A man, of whom you hesitate to acknowledge the mortality of, a man who saw beyond himself, beyond his time.
Doris Kerns Goodwin gives us Abraham - the man's name inspires us! - Lincoln's Team of Rivals; David Strathairn gives us his great rival, and a man who came to be one of Lincoln's greatest friends, William Seward. Sally Field tells us of his marriage, and Tommy Lee Jones tells us of the Titans who ruled Politics in Days of Yore. James Spader, perfectly cast (does the man take a role that isn't?), is the ignominious W. N. Bilbo, political operative and, probably, one of the few men who have been able to say "I'll be fucked!" to a President.
Politics, especially the art of the debate, has become so tame! The language those Learned Men used against one another reminded me of why the aisle in Parliament's House is as wide as it is - it is reputed to be slightly wider than a man with a sword could reach. No one has been disemboweled in Congress, there have been a few duels; the most famous, perhaps, of Vice President Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton. The idea of principled debate that contains no name calling, no impingement of character, no inference upon character - that is a modern idea, and a whimsical one, if I may say so! Telling your debating partner that he is scurrilous and slightly below a rutting pig in moral authority is often not only reasonable and truthful, but helpful to the debate's watchers. That these particular pigs had well provisioned troughs is, ultimately, neither here nor there. Mr Bilbo didn't, after all, fill the troughs - he merely pointed out their bounty.
With Lincoln, Steven Speilberg and Tony Kushner (screenplay), have given us a glimpse of a nation that was tearing itself apart. A small glimpse of the men who wanted it rent, and of those who strove to keep it intact. And while keeping it together, one man managed to accomplish the joining of the nation by railroad and the 13th Amendment. Today's Republicans would whine about his not laying a single rail's tie. Back then? The man cajoled and led. He compromised and bribed. He deceived his friends and relied upon his enemies. He managed, along the way, to change a nation.