Okay, not really. But there’s no doubt the “Great Compromiser” would be disappointed, if not downright disgusted, with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s vote against the compromise that kept us from falling off the “fiscal cliff.”
Paul is a tea party-tilting, uber-conservative Republican ideologue who all but equates compromise with surrender. His attitude might even remind Clay of the pre-Civil War Southern “Fire Eaters,” fanatically pro-slavery senators and representatives who were willing to destroy the Union to preserve human bondage.
Clay, whose antebellum mansion – and tomb – are Lexington landmarks, put the Union and sectional harmony above all other considerations. He helped broker three important compromises to stave off secession and civil war.
Also a congressman, secretary of state, triple presidential candidate and longtime Whig leader, Clay is Kentucky’s greatest political leader and one of the country’s most outstanding 19th century statesmen.
Clay was nicknamed “the Great Compromiser” and “Great Pacificator.” “All legislation, all government, all society is founded upon the principle of mutual concession, politeness, comity, courtesy; upon these everything is based,” he said.
Appropriately, a bronze statue of Clay stands tall in the Capitol building in Washington .
Clay, who died in 1852 at age 75, had many admirers in his day. He was President Abraham Lincoln’s political hero. In 1858, the Kentucky-born Lincoln , a Whig-turned-Republican, praised Clay as “my beau ideal of a statesman, the man for whom I fought all my humble life.”
Many of Paul’s heroes are millionaires of the if-you’re-poor-it’s-your-fault persuasion. Though a Christian, he is a big fan of the writer Ayn Rand, a militant atheist who glorified greed and selfishness and ridiculed Judeo-Christian compassion and charity.
The well-heeled Paul was not named for Rand, as has been claimed. But he shares her deep disdain for government programs designed to help the poor, the elderly and the working class.
“The legitimate object of government is ‘to do for the people what needs to be done, but which they can not, by individual effort, do at all, or do so well, for themselves ,'” Lincoln said.
Paul believes that government’s job is to step aside and let the rich get richer.
Unlike Paul, Clay and Lincoln believed Uncle Sam could do much good for the whole country.
Clay is synonymous with the “American System,” a program in which the federal government would take the lead in boosting the economy to benefit business, farmers and workers.
Lincoln used the full military and economic might of the federal government to win the Civil War, restore the Union and put slavery on the road to extinction.
Clay and Lincoln are immortal, and rightly so. Lincoln is Kentucky’s greatest native son. Appropriately, too, a large bronze statue of him is the centerpiece of the Capitol rotunda in Frankfort , our state capital.
Lincoln eulogized “the Great Compromiser” as a man “the times have demanded.” If polls are accurate, most Americans — Republicans and Democrats — are happy, or at least relieved, over the “fiscal cliff” compromise.
Here’s hoping a majority of my fellow Kentuckians will come to prefer a milder, more moderate — more Clay-like brew — than Paul’s bitter, greed-is-good brand and make him a one-term wonder.
Anyway, I wouldn’t bet the farm that a Paul statue will go up in Washington or Frankfort.
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