June 11th, 2014
05:19 PM ET
5 months 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. SW Florida Jeff

    How is this "news"? This whole thing is silly. The point she was making is still exactly the same. I bet over 99% of Americans (including those commenting here) had no idea who Seward was before this story, and nearly that many likely had no clue what Lincoln did before being president.

    It is interesting to hear people call Hillary "unqualified" in these posts. Who is more qualified then a formal first lady of the United States, former First Lady of Arkansas, former senator and former secretary of state? That is a great resume; certainly much better then President Obama, who went into office highly unqualified.

    June 12, 2014 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  2. TONE

    Scott in Michigan

    Imagine if Mitt Romney made this mistake in 2012? It would be headline news that he is out of touch. Just another Hillary flub – with many more to come.

    The gop is out of touch with everything, the American people, the bible (gohmert), themselves, the economy, and the laws of the land.Who gives a hoot about Abe he is long gone, and he is not putting food on my table so i will vote for who is.Definitely not the gop. Hillary hell yes the gop clowns hell no.

    June 12, 2014 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  3. zb

    Of course the GOP will pick up on something like this as a deflection after one of their only rising stars (Cantor) is now out of a job thanks to the tea party...

    June 12, 2014 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  4. critical thinking

    BTW some additional historical info for Hillary:

    Lincoln was a Republican and Democrats were against abolishing slavery. Their primary concern was if Blacks were given their freedom it would be only a matter of time before they would want the right to vote. What a wonderful political party she belongs to.

    June 12, 2014 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  5. Marcus (from...?)

    OK, she said 'senator' when he was a 'representative'. Big mistake.
    Like Reagan thanking Bolivia about the welcome he had just received (and he had just landed in Brazil...)?
    Funny, for the other party's supporters, mistake... but that is it.
    Asides that, was she trying to justify a valid point of just defending an unconstitutional stance?

    PS: To the guy(s) talking about Lincoln being the first GOP president. Yep, he was, and the guys who have always said bad to worse things about him were the 'Dixiecrats' who, about 50 years ago, started to move to (and vote for) what party? Oh yeah, the GOP.
    End of the History lesson.

    June 12, 2014 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  6. Anonymous

    She does have brain damage

    June 12, 2014 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  7. Rob Steele

    "What difference does it make?"

    June 12, 2014 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  8. Darrell

    If it's an off the cuff remark in a conversation it's not a big deal, things like that happen. This was clearly an orchestrated and thought out point she was making. Her 3AM phone call came and she sent it to a lower level voice mail. All fluff, no substance.

    June 12, 2014 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  9. scarf

    critical thinking

    BTW some additional historical info for Hillary:

    Lincoln was a Republican and Democrats were against abolishing slavery. Their primary concern was if Blacks were given their freedom it would be only a matter of time before they would want the right to vote. What a wonderful political party she belongs to.
    =====================================================================================
    Some additional historical info. Lincoln believed in the supremacy of the Federal Government over state governments. He believed in that so much that he fought a civil war to support his position. And, to help pay for that war, he instituted the nation's first progressive income tax. In today's GOP, Lincoln would be a RINO.

    June 12, 2014 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  10. Phillp Bunn

    As many mistakes as Hillary Clinton has made, why single this one out? Every time she opens her mouth either a mistake, or a lie, comes out. It is the simple nature of who she is. Why not evaluate her speeches for truth or correctness. That would be a real challenge.

    June 12, 2014 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  11. Really?

    critical thinking
    "BTW some additional historical info for Hillary:

    Lincoln was a Republican and Democrats were against abolishing slavery. Their primary concern was if Blacks were given their freedom it would be only a matter of time before they would want the right to vote. What a wonderful political party she belongs to."

    You're so lame to even bring that up. Seriously? GOP nowadays: 'Well, we used to be for freedom of blacks, but now we just try get away with just about anything we can no matter how egregious.' If Lincoln were alive today, he would be ashamed of the GOP.

    June 12, 2014 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  12. Airborne84

    Nect topic please...

    June 12, 2014 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  13. northerstar

    What garbage. I don't care for Clinton but she was only reading a speech that someone else wrote; one of many she has to give. She missed what one of her staffers missed. Nothing more. Its not news. It is just one more "filler" pieces that CNN has been reduced to – having to fill 24/7 so called "news".

    June 12, 2014 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  14. Airborne84

    Next...(my bad)

    June 12, 2014 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  15. Anonymous

    >"Lincoln was a Republican and Democrats were against abolishing slavery." Yes, but who were the liberals and who were the conservatives back then?

    June 12, 2014 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  16. Ryan

    The bush's and clinton's need to go play golf or something together and stay out of the news. I'm sick of reading about them. God forbid Hillary becomes president in 2016

    June 12, 2014 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  17. Rob-Texas

    Her first mistake was comparing Obama to Lincoln. They trying to compare herself to Seward. She is not qualified to be President. Time to hang it up.

    June 12, 2014 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  18. Mike

    She's just trying to make another feww million folks, give the former dead broke first lady a break.

    Hillary and Bill are just walking infomercials anymore, its all about the bucks. Keep up the good work America, look at what Mr. Cool (Obama) has done for everyone..

    June 12, 2014 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  19. Steve

    Since when is being First Lady qualify a person running for office ?

    Did Hillary even spend an entire term in the US Senate ? Heck, she barely lived in NY long enough to qualify to run for elected office from that state. She should know Illinois history better than she does, since she grew up here. But, she doesn't even count herself as a Cubs fan any longer either...

    June 12, 2014 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  20. shamsky24

    It's the GOP that is attempting to rewrite history each and every time it refers to itself as "the Party of Lincoln." Lincoln would have wanted nothing to do with the current band of Republican crazies.

    June 12, 2014 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  21. sly

    Hillary is a highly educated person – much smarter than almost everyone on here.

    One of the wisest and most respected leaders in Washington, and a perfect sucessor to President Obama.

    These are good times for America with record stock market growth, record 401k, record deficit reduction. No wars.

    Enjoy, and wait for our next great President. Good times!

    June 12, 2014 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  22. shamsky24

    <i<Did Hillary even spend an entire term in the US Senate ?

    Eight years. A senate term is six years, a fact that one should probably know before ripping Hillary Clinton for not being sufficiently versed in Illinois history.

    June 12, 2014 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  23. bobo

    Clintons 'dead broke' after White House? Actually, they earned over $12M that year.........

    June 12, 2014 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  24. DR

    I'm in no way a Hillary Clinton fan, but this is just stupid. I keep hoping our politicians on both sides of the aisle grow up but I suspect I'm better off hoping that Eva Longoria finally notices me.

    June 12, 2014 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  25. Ken

    SW Florida Jeff – How does Hillary being a former first lady of Arkansas and the US qualify her to be President of the United States? Only thing I see there is she was so repulsive that her husband strayed, and if you think it was only one time you are blind. US Senator – Did she accomplish anything? Former Secretary of State, once again what did she accomplish other than helping destroy our standing in almost every country in the world, not to mention Benghazi. Just because she held these titles does not make her automatically qualified, what would make her qualified is if she held these positions and actually did something positive while in those positions which she did not.

    June 12, 2014 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
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