June 11th, 2014
05:19 PM ET
9 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.

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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. Diane

    If Hillary was going to make the comparison between Obama/Her and Lincoln/Seward, she should have at least put enough effort in to get her facts straight. How hard is that? Some might think, "Senator, Congressman, what's the difference?" There's a lot of difference, especially in Lincoln's history. He wanted to be a senator but never was. That's an important part of his history. I think she could care less about Lincoln's history, but only cared enough to try to make a catchy comparison. Trouble is, she got it wrong. Of course, it was waaaaaaaaaaaaay back then. Who checks that far back?

    June 12, 2014 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  2. Right as Always

    Dear Republican Party – Who cares? Take a pill and go chute sum squirls. You'll feel better.

    June 12, 2014 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  3. Hogan's Goat

    " I'd love to see a poll on how trustworthy the media is. " Sure you would. Unless it was on FOX you'd never see it. Getting all upset at Hillary isn't going to keep her from winning, you know. You guys are over.

    June 12, 2014 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  4. Hogan's Goat

    Face it, if this is all you got, you got nothing. How pathetically sad it is that you expect stuff like this to stop her from winning the election. Go back to nattering about "she wears pantsuits and isn't beautiful." Maybe that will be the genius strategy you need!!

    June 12, 2014 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  5. Diane

    I know it's nitpicky, but when you say Congressman, it is usually accepted as Representative. Senators are rarely called Congressmen. If she had said Congressman instead of Senator it could be taken either way. But she called him Senator. That was one of Lincoln's biggest disappointments, that he never became a Senator. I'm just saying, if she wants to make the comparison–and acting So Smart in the process–she should have had her facts straight. Never spent much time studying Lincoln, I guess. Of course, he was a Republican, so why bother?

    June 12, 2014 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  6. Megapril

    Making the mistake of Senator vs Congressman isn't the main issue here, everyone makes mistakes. The issue is using Lincoln's Presidential race as a comparison to her Presidential race in the first place. The two are stratospheres apart as far as history as well as the future. Total disrespect.

    June 13, 2014 01:16 am at 1:16 am |
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