For roughly a century after the Civil War, Republicans felt duty-bound to "get right with Lincoln." Indeed, reverence for "Honest Abe" became so thoroughly ingrained in the nation's political thinking that by the middle of the last century, nearly all presidential hopefuls of whatever party would claim to be "right with Lincoln." As Lincoln scholar David Donald noted in his 1956 book, Lincoln Reconsidered, in the 1948 election the Truman Democrats, Henry Wallace and his Progressive Party and, of course, Tom Dewey and the Republicans all claimed to be the political heirs of the Great Emancipator. Strom Thurmond and his followers in the States' Rights or "Dixiecrat" party, on the other hand, were likely more restrained in their praise of Lincoln, if they mentioned him at all.
Republicans today seem obsessed with the need to "get right with Reagan." Any policy or proposal must be judged by the degree to which it conforms with or departs from the principles espoused by the "Gipper." Thus when Senator Rand Paul (shown, R-Ky.) said in an interview with ABC's Jonathan Karl that the United States should consider a policy of containment of, rather than military confrontation with, Iran over that nation's nuclear program, the Washington Post's resident superhawk, columnist Jennifer Rubin, declared Paul was "seemingly oblivious to the implications of what he was saying." What's more, Paul had committed the unpardonable sin: He had "de-Reaganized" himself. To be sure, Paul, a likely 2016 presidential hopeful, appeared to distance himself from the Republican establishment as much as or more than from the Obama administration by his dissent from the line that the mere containment of a nuclear Iran is unthinkable.
"I've repeatedly voted for sanctions against Iran. And I think all options should be on the table to prevent them from having nuclear weapons," Paul said on Sunday's This Week program. But he would not rule out a policy of containment, should efforts to thwart a nuclear program be unsuccessful. "They said containment will never ever, ever be our policy," Paul said. "We woke up one day and Pakistan had nuclear weapons. If that would have been our policy toward Pakistan, we would be at war with Pakistan." Yet regarding Iran, some people "beat their chest and say, by golly, we'll never stand for that, they're voting for war," he said.
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Photo of Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.): AP Images