The Essence of America
Jude Wanniski
September 30, 1999


Memo To: Jack Kemp
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: A theme for 2000

On my vacation trip in Ireland, I read Stephen B. Oates' The Approaching Fury, the first volume of a three-part series on the Civil War. My brother Terry read the first two volumes and sent them to me, thinking I would enjoy them. I'd thought I'd read all the Civil War books I ever wanted to read over the last 40 years, but I dug in, reading the second one first, The Whirlwind of War, before my vacation trip. Now I can't wait for Oates to finish the trilogy. They are really great books, the first three-dimensional accounts of the approach of the war, the war itself, and the aftermath of reconstruction. In my list of eight books that "shook up" my life, the Benjamin Thomas biography of Lincoln was among them, because it gave me an understanding of Lincoln that I had not grasped in my other readings. Oates does the same, but in a way that transports the reader backward in time, as if in a time machine, to be there seeing it all unfold through the eyes and voices of the major participants. The little excerpt I'm sending you is from page 390 of the first volume. Of all the things I thought about on the trip that I might communicate to Dan Quayle on what his campaign should be about, when I returned, this one passage stuck out, with Lincoln discussing his trip to Washington from Springfield, after his election in 1860. This is what the 2000 election had to be about. This is what the American people are waiting for and what the world awaits. Alas, Quayle dropped out, thinking he could not win, just before the CNN poll came out showing him in second place at 9%. None of the other candidates in the field seem right for the idea suggested by the Lincoln quote, but you certainly would have what it takes to pull it off. I wish you would reconsider your decision last January to retire from elective politics. Throw your hat in the ring. Given the state of play and the shape of the field, I think you would easily win the nominations of both the GOP and Reform Party and go on to win against Bill Bradley in November.

Excerpt, The Approaching Fury: Voices of the Storm 1820-1861, by Stephen B. Oates.
HarperCollins, Copyright 1997, New York.

LINCOLN: At Trenton, I was scheduled to address both houses of the New Jersey legislature. Going over what I might say, I kept thinking about Weems's Life of Washington, which I'd read as a boy. I remembered all the accounts there given of the battlefields and struggles for the liberties of the country, and none fixed themselves upon my imagination so deeply as the struggle at Trenton -- the crossing of the river; the contest with the Hessians; the great hardships endured at that time.

When we reached Trenton, I told the New Jersey senate about my reading of Weems and said that I had thought then, boy though I was, that there must have been something more than common that those men struggled for. I was exceedingly anxious, I said, to protect that "thing" which they struggled for; that "something" even more than national independence; that "something" that held out a great promise to all the people of the world for all time to come.

I was tired and never quite explained what that "something" was. In Philadelphia the next day, Washington's birthday, I clarified what I meant in a few impromptu remarks in Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence had been adopted. Speaking with deep emotion, I said that I'd never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in that document. "I've often inquired of myself what great principle or idea it was that kept this Confederacy so long together. It was something in that Declaration giving liberty, not alone to the people of this country, but hope to the world for all future time. It was that which gave promise that in due time the weights should be lifted from the shoulders of all men, and that all should have an equal chance. This is the sentiment embodied in that Declaration of Independence."