Depending on whom you read, he is either the worst or the most undervalued president in American history.
Fans see him as straightforward and unpretentious, simple and sincere.
His detractors interpret this as simplistic, uneducated, naive and ignorant.
Supporters say he is confident, funny and bold.
Some say arrogant, flippant and reckless.
He inherits a country evenly and deeply divided by opposing ideologies.
Critics say that he is himself the reason for much of the division. His election, they say, split rather than united the nationís citizenry. They remind him often that he did not win a majority of the popular vote.
He inherits a war set in motion before his election and propagated by those opposed to the American idea of freedom.
Some say he provoked the war himself, that he overstated the case, that he prodded the enemy into action.
His stated goals are clear: to free oppressed people and to protect the long-term security of the nation.
He is accused of having a hidden agenda, of engaging the enemy for his own political gain and to further his own financial interests.
He believes war is unavoidable.
His critics say the war is unjust and unnecessary.
He believes freedom is non-negotiable.
His detractors say that compromise is possible, but that he would rather use brute military force.
He proceeds slowly and reluctantly towards armed conflict.
Some say he rushes to war.
He tries to gain consensus among the nationís leaders.
He is accused of going it alone, of using the war powers of the president rather than the consent of Congress.
He gives frequent speeches laying out his reasons for a just war and his vision of the freedom it will win. He is candid about his intentions.
He is accused of moving in secret, of muzzling the press and silencing opposing viewpoints.
He stakes his presidency on the belief that all people are entitled to freedom and liberty.
He is accused of suppressing civil liberties, of violating the very Constitution he claims to uphold.
He mobilizes a trained and well-equipped army.
Yet the enemy proves ingenious and stubborn in its resistance. Its warriors fight on their own turf and are able to kill many brave American soldiers.
These casualties make the war and the president increasingly unpopular. If the tide doesnít turn soon, he will not be elected to a second term.
His opponent for the upcoming election is a decorated military officer who advocates an end to the war, even if it means allowing the oppression to continue.
This Republican president is known for championing human rights.
His critics say that he and his army deny the human rights of POWs.
A religious man, his speeches are peppered with references to God and Scripture.
He is accused of using God for his own ends, of being a hypocrite.
He stays the course, refusing to give in or give up.
Nearing the end of his first term, conventional wisdom says he will be remembered as Americanís worst president, that he will never receive the thanks of a grateful nation.
Only history can vindicate him.
And history does.
In 1864 Abraham Lincoln is the most undervalued president in American history.
Copyright © 2004 by Mike Bellah