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Happy Presidents’ Day
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Happy Presidents’ Day

The weekend’s news, plus excerpts from Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address.

Happy Monday! Huge news for our Maine contingent from over the weekend: We’re finally getting a moose emoji.

Between that and 🦞, Esther can now summarize her childhood with just two taps.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • Citing two “senior diplomats,” Bloomberg reported Sunday the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) detected uranium in Iran last week enriched to 84 percent purity—the highest level ever recorded in the country and just shy of the 90 percent threshold generally considered to be weapons-grade. Although a spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran denied the report to Iranian state media as “a smear and a distortion of the facts,” the IAEA said yesterday it was “aware of recent media reports” and that Rafael Grossi, the agency’s director general, is discussing the results of recent “verification activities” with Iran and will “inform the IAEA Board of Governors as appropriate.” According to a readout, Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday, in part about “broader regional challenges, including the threats posed by Iran.”
  • North Korean state media confirmed Sunday the country tested another intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) off its east coast over the weekend, purportedly in retaliation for the announcement of joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States. The U.S. responded Sunday by deploying B-1B bombers over the Korean peninsula to train with South Korean fighter jets.
  • U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) announced Friday the U.S. military and Syrian Democratic Forces conducted a helicopter raid in northeastern Syria on Thursday that killed Hamza al-Homsi, a senior ISIS leader, and wounded four U.S. service members and one military dog. On Saturday, CENTCOM announced another helicopter raid in eastern Syria had captured an ISIS Syria Province Official “involved in planning attacks on SDF-guarded detention centers and manufacturing improvised explosive devices.” There were reportedly no U.S. or SDF casualties in the second raid.
  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Saturday the State Department has formally determined Russian forces have committed crimes against humanity in Ukraine, including execution-style killings, civilian torture, rape, and forced family separation. “These acts are not random or spontaneous,” Blinken said in a statement. “They are part of the Kremlin’s widespread and systematic attack against Ukraine’s civilian population.” Vice President Kamala Harris echoed the determination in a Saturday address at the Munich Security Conference, labeling Russia’s actions “barbaric and inhumane,” and “an assault on our common values.”
  • Blinken also announced Sunday the United States will provide Turkey and Syria an additional $100 million in earthquake relief aid, including $50 million from the Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Funds and $50 million in humanitarian assistance through the State Department and USAID. The latest round of aid brings the United States’ total assistance to $185 million since the earthquake that killed more than 46,000 struck earlier this month. 
  • A 52-year-old man with a history of mental illness shot and killed six people—including his ex-wife and stepfather—in a small northern Mississippi town on Friday. The gunman—armed with a shotgun and two handguns—was apprehended in Arkabutla after a brief chase, and is being held without bond in the Tate County Jail.
  • The Carter Center announced Saturday former President Jimmy Carter, 98, has decided to forgo additional medical treatment and enter hospice care. The center did not specify which ailments required medical intervention, but Carter has dealt with melanoma and a handful of falls in recent years. Carter’s grandson Jason said he had seen both his grandparents—Jimmy and Rosalynn—on Friday, tweeting that “they are at peace and—as always—their home is full of love.”

‘Let Us Strive on to Finish the Work We Are in’

The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.

In lieu of a full item today, please take a moment to read a war-weary Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address, widely considered to be one of the greatest pieces of presidential oratory in American history. It was delivered on March 4, 1865, and Lincoln was assassinated on April 15, 1865.

Fellow countrymen,

At this second appearing to take the oath of the Presidential office there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement somewhat in detail of a course to be pursued seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself, and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war-seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.

One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Worth Your Time

  • As we approach the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, take a few moments to look through photographer Stephen Dupont’s haunting pictures of the war’s toll. There’s very little violence or gore captured in the collection Politico published over the weekend, but there’s a lot of emptiness—vacant streets and cities as Ukrainian citizens fled or hid in underground railway stations turned bunkers. “This place is full of ghosts,” Dupont recalled. A dog escaping through a broken apartment window. A lone soul walking along a typically busy street in Kharkiv. Five birds circling over a shelled and abandoned building. A distraught woman in Vikhivka, on her knees praying next to a totaled car. “I’m really looking for something that says this is wrong,” Dupont said, explaining his process. “[That] this should not be happening.”
  • It’s kind of weird that we celebrate George Washington’s birthday every year, Lindsay Chervinsky—a presidential historian at Southern Methodist University—writes for The Bulwark. Referencing letters from First Lady Abigail Adams that show unease with the holiday dates back centuries, Chervinsky argues the tradition hews too closely to Britons’ celebration of the monarch’s birthday. “If we want to take seriously the criticism that respect and gratitude for the office of the presidency are appropriate but that in a republic in which all people are understood to be equal it is not appropriate to revere and celebrate individual presidents, here is a modest proposal,” she writes. “Perhaps it would make more sense to celebrate great moments of the presidency. Instead of celebrating the birthdays of Washington and Lincoln—dates which, let’s face it, they didn’t really have any say in anyway—maybe we should celebrate the anniversary of Washington’s resignation as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army and of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. It would certainly be more fitting for a republic.”
  • New artificial-intelligence-powered tools seem to be cropping up everywhere we turn these days, and most seem benign enough. But, the new AI search engine from Microsoft’s Bing—named “Sydney”—is perhaps of a different ilk, writes Kevin Roose for the New York Times. “I’m not exaggerating when I say my two-hour conversation with Sydney was the strangest experience I’ve ever had with a piece of technology,” he writes. Roose tried to press the limits of the chat bot’s script. “After about an hour, Bing said it wanted to tell me a secret: that its name wasn’t really Bing at all but Sydney. It then wrote a message that stunned me: ‘I’m Sydney, and I’m in love with you. 😘’ (Sydney overuses emojis, for reasons I don’t understand.) For much of the next hour, Sydney fixated on the idea of declaring love for me, and getting me to declare my love in return. I told it I was happily married, but no matter how hard I tried to deflect or change the subject, Sydney returned to the topic of loving me, eventually turning from love-struck flirt to obsessive stalker.”

‘To the White House and Beyond!’

Presented Without Comment

Also Presented Without Comment

Also Also Presented Without Comment

Toeing the Company Line

  • Friday’s Uphill (🔒) dives into the divides over Ukraine policy within the House GOP. “House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has vaguely said the chamber won’t advance blank checks to Ukraine, suggesting future spending will at least have more robust oversight provisions attached,” Haley writes. “But some of his members want to cut off Ukraine funding entirely, as they also seek to drastically reduce federal spending this year.”
  • In the latest edition of Stirewaltisms (🔒), Chris exposes yet another reason why our politics are broken. “Politicians who know better decide that in order to get power to do the right things, it’s necessary to say the wrong things,” he writes. “Policy bankruptcy doesn’t happen all at once; it happens when enough people make enough little bargains with themselves about why it is good and important to pander and deceive.”
  • In his latest Boiling Frogs (🔒), Nick argues last week’s Dominion court filing is evidence Fox News hates its viewers. “Fox’s relationship with its viewers after the election is a simulacrum of the Republican establishment’s relationship with its voters since 2016,” he writes. “In both cases, professionals who see through populist nonsense felt obliged to supply it disingenuously because the appetite for it among the people to whom they cater is voracious, overwhelming, and inexhaustible.”
  • On the site over the weekend, Paul Miller remembered Michael Gerson through one of the inaugural addresses he helped write, Alec panned the new Ant-Man movie, John Guaspari reviewed Tracy Kidder’s new book on a doctor serving Boston’s homeless population, and David M. Drucker reported on the launch of Sen. Tim Scott’s “listening tour” in Charleston. “Tim Scott is testing the market for happy warriors in the Republican Party,” David writes, “planning a possible presidential bid rooted in the premise America already is great.”
  • On the site today, Charlotte examines how Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is capitalizing on the fallout from this month’s earthquakes, Price explains proposed regulations to better protect children online, and Chris looks at the problems with the presidency (spoiler: it’s the presidents).

Let Us Know

What do you consider to be the best presidential moments in American history? Where did the president’s leadership or intellectual abilities most shine through?

Declan Garvey is the executive editor at the Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2019, he worked in public affairs at Hamilton Place Strategies and market research at Echelon Insights. When Declan is not assigning and editing pieces, he is probably watching a Cubs game, listening to podcasts on 3x speed, or trying a new recipe with his wife.

Esther Eaton is a former deputy editor of The Morning Dispatch.

Mary Trimble is the editor of The Morning Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, she interned at The Dispatch, in the political archives at the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po), and at Voice of America, where she produced content for their French-language service to Africa. When not helping write The Morning Dispatch, she is probably watching classic movies, going on weekend road trips, or enjoying live music with friends.