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Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review and author of the New York Times Best­seller “Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years.” He recently pub­lished a new book, “Lincoln Unbound: How an Ambi­tious Young Rail­splitter Saved the American Dream — and How We Can Do It Again.” Lowry visited Hillsdale College as a guest of the Dow Jour­nalism Program.

What started your interest in writing “Lincoln Unbound?” And where does one begin in the research process?

I have always been drawn to him as many people are. The idea for “Lincoln Unbound” came from “Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer Pres­ident,” a book  written by a his­torian named Allen Guelzo. In the beginning of the book there is a treatment of dif­fer­ences between Lincoln’s view of eco­nomics and Jef­ferson and the Jef­fer­sonian Democrats. I had never seen that dis­cussed. That was what really fired my interest in this par­ticular angle on Lincoln. This college has statues of both Lincoln and Jef­ferson almost in sight of each other. But Jef­ferson was very much a romantic about the farmer in American life, and Lincoln having lived that life himself, had zero roman­ticism about it what­soever. Lincoln was much more fired by the Hamil­tonian vision of America where you have this finan­cially diverse and sophis­ti­cated indus­tri­al­izing economy. He saw the Jef­fer­sonian Democrats as asso­ciated with the cor­ruption of the country.

What lesson could our current political leaders take from Lincoln in times of national division?

 There are a couple of things. First, I think it is important to under­stand that he was par­tisan, he was very polit­i­cally deep in his bones. He was a party leader. He saw nothing wrong with the party pol­itics, it was what he spent most of his life doing. I think he would have a pretty high tol­erance for the kind of things you see in Wash­ington. A lot of it rep­re­sents the clashing of two opposing point of views and Lincoln was very familiar with that. Even back when he was a Whig they had an inflam­matory debate over the Bank of Illinois, which was char­tered by the state. The Whigs sup­ported the bank because of their eco­nomic vision. The Democrats were trying to kill it. There was this one incident, through a par­lia­mentary motion, in which the Bank’s charter would end when the session of the leg­is­lature ended. The Democrats were using this to poten­tially kill the bank. Lincoln’s Whigs realized that if a quorum could not be called, the session couldn’t end. So Lincoln was mon­i­toring how many people were on the floor of the leg­is­lature and he saw that the Democrats had managed to get enough Whigs in to get a quorum. So he and his partner jumped out a window and ran away because the doors were blocked by the sergeant of arms. He was ridiculed for this. But he was someone that would jump out of a window as a part of a par­lia­mentary maneuver. Now granted this was when he was younger and more immature, but he had a high tol­erance for par­tisan maneuvers.

What is missing from today’s political debates?

One of the things that was so great about Lincoln’s war lead­ership was his lack of cer­titude, ulti­mately, about his own cor­rectness. The beauty and power of his second inau­gural address is that the country was fighting this hor­ribly bloody war, but there was Lincoln who said that the country bore respon­si­bility and that God’s pur­poses were the country’s own. That rep­re­sents a kind of found modesty, ulti­mately. We would probably have a better political debate and even a better dis­course gen­erally if everyone had a little of that doubt about them­selves and their views some­where under­neath the dis­cussion. Which doesn’t mean you can’t fight for your beliefs and try to uphold prin­ciple, but having that kind of modesty is important.

You have pre­vi­ously men­tioned that National Review rep­re­sents a certain civility, dis­course, and wit. Could you speak to the role of National Review in this evolving media industry?

National Review has always planted the flag for the right. We try to put forth the best argu­ments for con­ser­vatism and our view of America and the impor­tance of liberty. As we begin to use online and digital mediums, the purpose does not change but the content has a little bit. Things online tend to be shorter, they are more imme­diate than articles in a print mag­azine.  But we seek to do the same thing, defending the same ideals in hope­fully the same way.  We take the argu­ments of the other side seri­ously, and engage them with excellent writing. The look and feel of National Review Online, is dif­ferent than the print mag­azine. But the under­lying of what it is, is the same. Twitter is more and more important, it is imme­diate and shorter. Even more imme­diate and shorter than the online content. Who knows what the next thing will be after Twitter? We aim to keep up with all of these trends. They are very important to the industry and getting the message out. We have always had the idea that we really aren’t a mag­azine, we are a cause. We create a com­munity around that cause while advancing that cause. So if tomorrow, God forbid, the print mag­azine went away, that mission of National Review would stay the same but in dif­ferent forms.