While rather uncharitable, Isaac Chotiner's profile of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in the latest print version of the New Republic (not yet available online unless you're a subscriber) is an illuminating read... until you reach the final paragraph, where Chotiner sneers at McConnell's admiration of Henry Clay:
McConnell once said admirably of Henry Clay, "The compromises that he brought about probably pushed the Civil War off, first the one in 1820, then the one in 1850." This is the definition of short-term thinking. Today, we don't remember the Civil War being "pushed off" - we remember that, as Abraham Lincoln said, the war came. For his part, Obama will be remembered as a two-term president who won reelection in an ailing economy and who passed a law providing access to health care for all Americans. McConnell's claim to the historical legacy he once yearned for might lie, ironically, in having made Obama's possible.
Put it this way: if the Civil War had been fought in 1820, not only would the Union have failed to abolish slavery in the south, but it's doubtful we'd have a Union today. Those morally reprehensible compromises bought the time for the north to industrialize and gain the wealth required to win a long civil war. For that, I thank Sen. Clay, even as we should simultaneously condemn every action that allowed the perpetuation of chattel slavery.
Those terrible compromises did their job, even if they received much deserved derision at the time and in historical accounts. Thus, in the process of laughing at what he deems McConnell's short term thinking, Chotiner reveals some poorly thought out historical thinking of his own.