Despite Lincoln links, Obama faces fundamentally different challenges

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WASHINGTON -- Barack Obama's inauguration will be saturated in Abraham Lincoln symbolism.

The president-elect launched his campaign nearly two years ago in Lincoln's hometown of Springfield, Ill. Obama will ride into the nation's capital in a railroad car, as did Lincoln. And he will be sworn into office on Lincoln's bible.

But the comparisons take an abrupt turn from there as Obama faces two fundamental challenges that are the opposite of what Lincoln faced nearly a century-and-a-half ago.

How Obama meets these two challenges will be his legacy.

As Lincoln prepared his inaugural address, top advisers - including former rival William Seward, Obama's Hillary Rodham Clinton - cautioned Obama to tone down the rhetoric. In early drafts, these wise men saw unnecessary bellicosity toward the South and the Supreme Court. They worried Lincoln would incite civil war.

It turned out that war was coming anyway. But caution was the watchword in January 1861.

Caution should not be the watchword in January 2009 as Obama prepares what may be the most important inaugural address since Franklin Delano Roosevelt's in 1933...

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