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. AdMan

    Oh boy is the speech writer getting solo fired. Well that and anyone who proofed the speech including Mrs. Clinton.
    Sarah Palin for the Dems apparently.

    June 12, 2014 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  2. jim

    Give her a break. She's old, infirm, and disabled by a stroke. Perfect for the presidency, ugh.

    June 12, 2014 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  3. critical thinking

    If he was a Senator or a Congressman, What Does It Matter? It's my turn to be President ! Bill said so.

    June 12, 2014 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  4. patNY

    RNC, you've got to be kidding me! It's not like she lied about WMD in Iraq, or about where she went to college, or anything that ever came out of Palin's mouth.

    June 12, 2014 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  5. laxattack33

    I am neither Repugnican nor Demoncrat. I can't say that I agree with many of Ms. Clinton's policies and ideas. However, I really don't give a fig if she made a mistake like this. We ALL make them. Nobody's perfect. However, it never ceases to amaze me how people with rail against someone criticizing her for this type of mistake, but those same people were front and center to ride the "Dan Quayle is an idiot for not knowing about potato" train. Or any of the other right/conservative mistakes that get made. You guys need to start concentrating on more important issues like ensuring our childrens' safety and education. (let the diatribes begin!)

    June 12, 2014 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  6. Chuck

    Hillary "2016"

    June 12, 2014 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  7. Joe

    leave it to the repubs to jump on something so trivial. she's going to be the next president, no matter how hard they try to stop it from happening. it will be fun to watch them try, though.

    June 12, 2014 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  8. Norm

    If she was GOP the press would run this non stop until the day after the election calling her dumb the entire time.

    June 12, 2014 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  9. Drew

    Why is this even on CNN?? and does it even matter???

    June 12, 2014 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  10. roadrager1

    I wonder if she will take up the motto of "Change", anybody, but Hillary.

    June 12, 2014 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  11. Richard

    Oh, good grief! Most of the Country misidentified George W. Bush as a President.

    June 12, 2014 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  12. John

    He who spits into the wind. The RNC lacks one of life's first lessons is much bigger story.

    June 12, 2014 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  13. Retired Racist trucker (I didn't vote for God Obama)

    Not to worry folks.God Obama is planning to stay President (Soon to be king) forever.He can change the law.All he has to do is by pass congress.

    June 12, 2014 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  14. Hogan's Goat

    Yawn. Boy, the GOP is really ticked about her being the next president. Get back to us when she holds a press conference tomorrow to insist she was right all along, the way Palin did with "Paul Revere was a British Spy."

    June 12, 2014 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  15. bob

    Hillary later commented, "My misstatement is not due to my drain bamage."

    June 12, 2014 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  16. Ellen

    She belongs in jail

    June 12, 2014 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  17. Anne Kepplinger

    She is a remarkably intelligent woman who made a verbal mistake.
    After a bump on the head especially, similar nouns are easily confused.
    Senators and congressmen are lawmakers.
    The point of her sentence was not whether he was not what position he held as a candidate, but the fact that he was a revoloutunary in that time; just as our current president is today. It will be interesting to see, if she decides not to run, who does...that's what people need to think about, not a person's choice of words.

    June 12, 2014 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  18. innerjuju

    I dislike Hillary but good grief, is no one allowed to make a mistake any longer?

    June 12, 2014 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  19. Henriette

    I think if she saw a sign that said WET FLOOR, she would.

    June 12, 2014 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  20. Mike Smith-Really

    I heard Hillary was born in a log cabin too.

    June 12, 2014 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  21. Zeke

    What this episode shows, is Hillary is a dumbbell. She does not know her history. She also has tried to take credit for accomplishments while she was Secty. Of State, but is at a loss for accomplishments. Clinton has more baggage than the Samsonite company and this all going to hound her as she pretends not to be running.

    June 12, 2014 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  22. prpgk1

    And Seward never became President. He did however buy Alaska from Russia. At the time it was known as Seward's Folly or Seward's Icebox. Just like Seward Clinton was more Hawkish than President they served. Seward actually wanting to go to war against Great Britain. Which Lincoln argued against "One war at a time".

    June 12, 2014 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  23. Hogan's Goat

    "Obama is planning to stay President (Soon to be king) forever" Ha, are you really that stupid? The only way he could do that is if there was a huge uprising of gun nuts, shooting at cops and burning down buildings.
    "Dan Quayle is an idiot for not knowing about potato" He was an idiot who thought "Murphy Brown" was Candice Bergen's real name and thinking she was actually having a baby. You actually liked Quayle? He was the poster boy for being out of touch with America. Rich kid with stupid ideas, like Dubya.

    June 12, 2014 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  24. Ben Ghazi

    Republicans sure seem to be scared of Hillary.
    They need not worry for I, Ben Ghazi, will surely lead them to victory in 2016!

    June 12, 2014 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  25. Anne Kepplinger

    The point of her sentence was not the position he held as a candidate , but the fact that he was a revolutionary in that time, just as our current president.

    – everyone gets what they are trying to say wrong sometimes...haven't you?

    June 12, 2014 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12