Alastair's Blog

Return to:  Blog | Articles | Videos RSS feed

Don’t miss the Culture Show special on Abraham Lincoln tonight

Posted on 12 February 2013 | 7:02pm

I do not make a habit of apologising to the BBC but sorry, sorry, sorry, I forgot. Forgot what? I promised to do a blog today about the BBC2 Culture Show special on Abraham Lincoln. It is on at 1120pm and presented by Justin Webb.

I made this promise when, several weeks ago, I was interviewed for the film, as an unashamed fan of the (sadly)Republican President. And I have only just remembered because someone texted me to say ‘I see you’re on that Lincoln film tonight.’ Indeed I am and somewhat embarrassed to be billed as one of the three main interviews, the other two being Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day Lewis.

The producers even sent me a transcript of the quotes they are using from my interview. With so much football t watch tonight, I don’t have time to do a ‘proper’ blog, so I hope they will forgive my forget if I just cut and paste what they say I said.

ALASTAIR CAMPBELL

I think that there’s not a leader in the world that can’t learn from Lincoln.

ALASTAIR CAMPBELL

So many books have been written and they’re broadly positive, so many films have been done and they’re broadly positive, and that’s kind of how reputation works. And what you forget, or what the world forgets, em, is all that went into that.

VO 14

But that career is not a foregone conclusion.

Many of his attempts to climb the political ladder end in defeat and an early business venture sees him file for bankruptcy in 1833.  In 1835 his first great love, a local Kentucky girl called Ann Rutledge, dies suddenly.  Ann’s death leads to a crippling nervous breakdown which highlights a melancholic disposition that haunts him throughout his life

ALASTAIR CAMPBELL

There probably is something in the American people that likes to think of their great leaders as being great, out there, always positive, always upbeat, always trying, give everything a lift, whereas clearly there was this other side to Lincoln and to his wife, that em, that I think today would probably would define as, as depression. he sometimes did find the whole kind of human intercourse thing very, very difficult.

ALASTAIR CAMPBELL

Some of the greatest figures in history, Churchill, Lincoln, Darwin, Marie Curie, Florence Nightingale, all had what, I think today if you were studying them you, you’d, you’d define as mental health problems. Black Dog, Churchill, that was his phrase for his depressions.

VO 15

Abraham Lincoln develops ways to cope with his recurring depression.  Throughout his life he keeps busy, immersing himself in his work as a form of distraction

ALASTAIR CAMPBELL

There are statues, there are lithographs, and one assumes that they all capture something about him, and they do tend, insofar as if there’s one thing that they capture it does tend to be that rather sad, melancholy, not hurt but just pained, there’s a pained look about him in a lot of the pictures and a lot of the statues, and em, one assumes that to have been real, because otherwise, given he was such a huge figure and he has been so studied, why would that have come down through history?

ALASTAIR CAMPBELL

Of course one of the fascinating aspects of, of Lincoln’s rise to the presidency is it was not an easy, it was not an easy journey.

ALASTAIR CAMPBELL

He always understood that anybody that he met, anybody that he wrote to, he was building a network, he was building a team, and he, I think was somebody who understood that not just to become President, but to sustain yourself as President, you have to have this phenomenal array of different relationships operating at different levels and he had an instinct for that.

ALASTAIR CAMPBELL

And em, you know, you just have to look at what they achieved together to see that it was a, it was a fantastic decision.

ALASTAIR CAMPBELL

I think that he did it partly for his own political reasons, but also out of an understanding of the need to get all the best people and all the best talents and I think having been in direct competition with them, he saw what strengths they had and he saw how they complimented his strengths and maybe helped him address some of his perceived weaknesses.

ALASTAIR CAMPBELL

Even  somebody like Abraham Lincoln who has this kind of pedestal image now, and yet did have to get down and dirty and did have to cajole and, em, maybe make different people think different things about the same thing that he was trying to do, because that sometimes is the business of politics.

ALASTAIR CAMPBELL

When you see Barack Obama, just the fact that he is, not white, that he’s mixed race, that would not, and could not have happened without the progress that Abraham Lincoln made as a political leader, in the face of some extraordinary and well organised opposition. And, so that link alone, I think does give, if you like, gives Barack Obama the right, the authority, the permission to, to invoke Lincoln.

ALASTAIR CAMPBELL

I totally understand why President Obama would want to invoke Lincoln’s memory, but it is way way too early to say whether Barack Obama has any of those qualities that will endure

ALASTAIR CAMPBELL

Another great quality was a sense of his own humility, a belief that he, even when he became, as it were, the leader, that he didn’t assume that he knew everything, that he had all the skills that he needed, and he understood that anything, but particularly politics, is a team game.

Ps, can someone keep me a tape? I’m away..

  • Anonymous

    Lincoln is a good subject, but myself have never been a big fan of Spielberg – just too bubblegum and popcorn big screen for me.

    Love back to basics americana films more, and hope that Lincoln, but no doubt is not, being approached in the same way, without any poke-pola cheap lines in it. However, Quentin T stuff I really like, for it’s lateral slant with such.

  • Anonymous

    ….furthermore, last bit of true americana I watched last was yesterday, Lucy Whipple on her Californian adventures with he mom, in the first half of the nineteenth century, over there.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DP6dVkQOIO4

  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous

    oops, this vid even, ref true true hearted americana,

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKMygf-ktJM

  • Anonymous

    Better clip on vimeo on Lucy Whipple, gawd dawg darn it, here, brilliant in fact,

    http://vimeo.com/36446309

    YT is seriously pants at times.