June 11th, 2014
05:19 PM ET
5 years ago

Senator Abraham Lincoln? Clinton misidentifies the former president

Chicago (CNN) – Abraham Lincoln rose to national prominence in the mid-1800s as a House member from Illinois, a state now affectionately known as the Land of Lincoln, and later as an iconic U.S. president.

But during a speech in Chicago on Wednesday, Hillary Clinton – who was born in Illinois – misidentified the state's most famous politician as a senator, not a congressman.

Clinton made the mistake as she was trying to compare the 2008 Democratic presidential primary – where she, as a senator from New York, squared off with then-Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois – to the 1860 race for the Republican nomination – where Lincoln, a former congressman at the time, faced off against then-Sen. William Seward of New York.

"A senator from Illinois ran against a senator from New York," Clinton said of the 2008 primary. "Just as had happened way back with a senator from Illinois named Lincoln and a senator from New York named Seward."

Noting that both she and Seward had lost, she added: "It turned out the same way."

The Republican National Committee quickly jumped on the mistake, blasting the clip and a statement to reporters.

"With Hillary Clinton trying to rewrite her own history during through (sic) this book tour, it’s only fitting that she tried to rewrite Abraham Lincoln’s history," said Jahan Wilcox, a party spokesman. "Before she embarks on another presidential campaign, Clinton might want to take a History 101 refresher."

Hillary Clinton's poll numbers edge down

The RNC has been aggressive in calling out Clinton during the rollout of her new memoir, "Hard Choices." Like they would in a campaign, the party committee has kept close tabs on Clinton, someone who is admittedly thinking about running for president and said this week she will likely announce her decision in 2015.

The former secretary of state's comparison was meant to drive home the point that Clinton joining Obama's first term cabinet was unlikely and show the president was building a "team of rivals." Both Clinton and Obama have become fond of the term that originated from the 2005 Doris Kearns Goodwin book about Lincoln's cabinet that bears the same name.

Despite the mistake, there is a comparison to be made between the two New York politicians.

Both went into their respective nomination fights as the frontrunner from their party. Clinton lost to Obama in the contentious 2008 primary but later became a vocal surrogate for the future president.

Seward was also seen as a shoo-in for the nomination in 1860, but after four contentious ballots at the Republican National Convention in Chicago, Lincoln secured the nomination and later won the White House.

After losing their respective races, both also went on to serve as secretary of state under the person who beat them.

The rest of Clinton's appearance in Chicago – the second of her book tour – centered around an interview with Rahm Emanuel, the city's mayor and a longtime Bill Clinton aide.


Filed under: Hillary Clinton
soundoff (281 Responses)
  1. kinjirurm

    Between the Tea Party couple who went on a shooting rampage and the Tea Party candidate who dethroned the House Majority Leader, you can imagine the Republican Party was desperate for a story, even this. You can be sure it will get way more coverage than the Vegas shootings or Cantor's defeat on Fox News.

    June 12, 2014 02:08 am at 2:08 am |
  2. Thatguy371

    Wow, the repubs have proven they must have a 'rules and responses without thinking' book. How else would they blurt out such petty comments and expect anyone but their side to 'appreciate' it. And if you ask them the point Mrs Clinton was trying to make, they'd tell you it didn't matter. And they wonder why their party is toast. Talk about outta touch.

    June 12, 2014 02:10 am at 2:10 am |
  3. Cadillacjoe

    The following was said by Pres George HW Bush said in a speech at the National VFW convention:
    "Today is Pearl Harbor Day" WED SEP 07, 2011 AT 02:43 PM PDT So maybe we can relax just a little on petty semantics.

    June 12, 2014 03:07 am at 3:07 am |
  4. John

    Clinton trying to compare herself to Lincoln would be like Bush trying to compare himself to JFK. You just can't get there with a straight face.

    June 12, 2014 03:16 am at 3:16 am |
  5. Rob Turak

    Please people. Is this "petty"? In the grand scheme of things, yes it is. But if a republican said something like this, the Democrats would be doing the exact same thing. So you can come down off your high horse now.

    June 12, 2014 03:39 am at 3:39 am |
  6. dale

    Who cares

    June 12, 2014 04:18 am at 4:18 am |
  7. Steve

    If Bush made a similar comment the libs would be all over it including s skit on SNL. They can dish it out but not take it. Poor babies need some thicker skin

    June 12, 2014 05:27 am at 5:27 am |
  8. JohnyAngel Advocacy Group

    Intelligent and honesty, Hillary mocks them !!

    June 12, 2014 05:44 am at 5:44 am |
  9. Jay

    Hillary,
    I knew Abraham Lincoln, and you're not Abraham Lincoln .... 😉

    June 12, 2014 06:02 am at 6:02 am |
  10. Bill

    Hang on. Is this a story about Hillary making a mistake or a story about the RNC making a big deal out of Hillary making a mistake? Does anyone really think that she writes these speeches anyway? Some poor staffer got a good toungue lashing, I'm sure. At least they managed not to out any CIA station chiefs.

    June 12, 2014 06:05 am at 6:05 am |
  11. Rino-Be-GONE

    Hillary makes a mistake. This stroke riddle Penguin make them all the time so this is NOT news.

    June 12, 2014 06:19 am at 6:19 am |
  12. hkdakota

    Spoken like a true elitist.

    June 12, 2014 06:26 am at 6:26 am |
  13. AmericansRights

    Among her many many other mistakes, what a doofus

    June 12, 2014 06:29 am at 6:29 am |
  14. Tom

    Ooh, let's schedule some hearings to investigate. Did Hillary intentionally lie about Lincoln? Has her brain damage made impossible for her to remember basic facts? Republicans can milk this one for a few months. Of course, it will be forbidden to mention similar Republican faux pas statements like when Michelle Bachamann referenced the great Revolutionary War battles of Lexington and Concord NH, or the time Dan Quale admonished a poor kid for leaving the "e" off when spelling potato. Those, of course, were just honest mistakes. But Hillary! There has to be a sinister implication here! Let's keep investigating it until we find the "truth."

    June 12, 2014 06:34 am at 6:34 am |
  15. Monster1776

    A) This is a non-story, who cares.

    B) To the people complaining about the GOP being tacky about this, what about when Democrats blasted Palin on every misquote? Both sides need to get over themselves and the pettiness.

    June 12, 2014 06:41 am at 6:41 am |
  16. Angus

    Who cares! Why not focus on her record instead of this stuff.

    June 12, 2014 06:44 am at 6:44 am |
  17. Steve

    Attention to detail? Maybe?

    June 12, 2014 06:47 am at 6:47 am |
  18. Tommy G

    Geeez, the lefties in here get so TOUCHY when one of there own screws up and the media reports on it. Ready to attack and ridicule the press that reports it and anybody else that comments on it. Hmmmm.... where was all this outrage when they were doing the very same things when it came to Republicans and conservatives? And of course the lefties went wild with their comments and piling on. Lefties are just the biggest whiners and hypocrites on this planet!

    June 12, 2014 06:49 am at 6:49 am |
  19. Normal In NH

    I have a crazy idea...why don't we elect a competent, qualified person for POTUS? Let's try that...it's been quite a while since the US voter has done anything even close...whatdoya think...maybe? Or will it simply be anointing the next in line?

    June 12, 2014 06:53 am at 6:53 am |
  20. Gabbo

    If Bush makes this mistake, or if Bush said the US had 57 states, we'd never hear the end of it. But it's a liberal, so they get yet another pass from CNN and the media ....not to mention all their lapdogs.

    June 12, 2014 06:59 am at 6:59 am |
  21. george

    I only see your comments about how the republicans are so petty. When, in liberals minds, will you hold Hilary and oliar to the same standards? Oh I forgot, when the anointed ones speak all should listen.

    June 12, 2014 07:06 am at 7:06 am |
  22. ToldUso

    Has Issa demanded a congressional investigation yet??

    June 12, 2014 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  23. King Barry

    So? Everybody knows she is a criminal m0r0n.

    June 12, 2014 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  24. Thomas

    Didn't I learn in high school civics that a Congressman is a person who serves in Congress, a senator is someone who serves in the Senate and a Member of the House is a person who serves in the House of Representatives?

    June 12, 2014 07:19 am at 7:19 am |
  25. Redspotz

    This iS unimportant; however, there are those on the left who still cackle over Dan Quayle misspelling "potato" and George Bush's mispronounciation of "nuclear". More proof that when one on the left makes an error, the media states it is merely a mistake, if the error is made by one on the right, they are decried as stupid.

    June 12, 2014 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
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