June 11th, 2014
05:19 PM ET
7 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. Randy Sturgill

    one word: potatoe...No or is that potato? I sure hope the media/democrats don't talk about my spelling mistake for a month...

    June 11, 2014 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  2. Jim

    Yeah, never let a few things like facts get in the way of tying yourself into a Lincoln comparison

    June 11, 2014 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  3. Al

    It's her story and her version of history.

    June 11, 2014 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  4. amarjeet

    Democrats fully support Obama policy within America and for global commitment. Hillary Clinton by not supporting Obama policy, views and concept within and opposing from out after leaving job does not speak of good leadership making her misfit for Presidential candidate. With Obama taking calculated and positive approach America has been able to bounce back in economy with greater in depth impact of US industry, economy and revival. Congress dominated by GOP opposed Obama outright and instead followed a policy of deal on all national issues other than vested interests. Engaging America in wars as a leading country all over the globe with depleted financial strength and resources is not wise as US hands are full with existing commitments as well WWII allies. US needs resources which were hit by off shoring of industries. Obama used the available resources despite political set back by Congress by non-democrats in deploying US Defense in Middle East, African continent and now Ukraine conflict of annexation of Crimea by Russia. US reserves are already over extended. US spent its resources for protecting other countries from terror and other political rebels. Now is time EU countries who conserved their resources and flourished economy should take responsibility to protect the weaker countries and those weaker in governance by solid support against terrorism. Immediately they should deploy in Ukraine and as well Africa to eliminate Harem terrorists. Russia effort to annex Crimea is direct encouragement to China for similar action in Asia. Such mistakes of leaders about history of America are not acceptable. Good leaders speak what is 100% correct not just out of imagination. She made mistake during her election campaign too in a speech.

    June 11, 2014 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  5. Hildabeast

    Come on Hillary, children in all 57 states know Lincoln was a Congressman.

    June 11, 2014 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  6. Loki

    Did someone say brain damage ?

    June 11, 2014 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  7. KC Yankee

    This is really important.

    June 11, 2014 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  8. admin

    This isn't a Republican story. CNN and other media reported the same. The story isn't about Republican reaction, it's about Clinton's screw-up. Think Dan Quayle (if you're old enough) or Biden.

    June 11, 2014 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  9. CTED


    Wow someone said senator instead of house member. I teach history and yeah my kids better get that right, but if they messed that up 40 years after high school I'll give em pass that they knew he was from IL, debated Seward, etc. Has the GOP just gone so far off the rails they have to pick on a misstatement like this?

    Hey GOP until you get back to being MORE mature than my students you will not get any votes from serious Americans.

    June 11, 2014 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  10. whatacrocker

    It is awesome that in the press release about Hillary Clinton's error, the GOP made a third-grade grammar error.

    June 11, 2014 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  11. Scott

    Heaven forbid that one should criticize a Clinton. She can't seem to get her facts straight on a number of issues. Scary...

    June 11, 2014 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  12. LaTonya

    Hillary needs to get out of Cory Booker's way.
    She's too old and ugly to be president.
    We need youth and beauty.

    June 11, 2014 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  13. Michael

    Might I remind you of the lefts fury over VP Quail's tomato(e)
    ; Or, POTUS W. Bush use of nuclear, or, the inability of him to name the leaders of several countries. Or, POTUS H. Bush with his Sept 7th mis spoken reference. Clinton will not be elected anyway. The country should focus on the continuing mess the Democrats have gotten us into.

    June 11, 2014 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  14. Sonny

    I'm still trying to process how "Clinton" and "honest" could ever be used in the same sentence

    June 11, 2014 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  15. anon

    Another misconception about Abraham Lincoln. He cared about freeing slaves. Actually, not so much. One should read his letter to Horace Greeley.

    June 11, 2014 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  16. Juanito

    Sorry, lib/dems, you guys jumped on Quayle, Bush Sr and Jr, Palin with equal tenacity in the past(yes, you did. Read it and saw it when it happened).

    The press and dem party were just as petty about Qualye adding an 'e' to the spelling of 'potato' while watching a 12 year in a spelling bee.

    Your glory girl doesn't get a pass. You all keep crying about GOP pettiness, tears flowing with begs to leave her alone, and you all are no better than the cons/repubs. Sad pack of hypocrites.

    Anyone stepping in the political ring is fair game to this. Just as Hillary's participation in the current regimes' follies on the international stage deserves more than the scrutiny its getting, she better have the endurance and fortitude to go through this.

    Her supporters sure don't.

    June 11, 2014 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  17. Lizzy

    And she wants the top position in the world? It is important that an aspiring President? hello? should speak intelligently and know the history of the country she wants to lead? She should have known better, everyday she makes a fool of herself, she's weak, she sounds hostile, she lies, she is just not fit to be President.

    June 11, 2014 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  18. Uncle Sam

    Oh, how could Hillary make a mistake...You must be mistaken.

    June 11, 2014 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  19. Realist

    Give her a break. She had a serious brain injury and is still in recovery.

    June 11, 2014 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  20. ThinkAgain - Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

    Will Issa be calling for an investigation into what Hilary knew when regarding Abraham Lincoln's pre-presidential electoral experience?

    After all, Issa just isn't a man unless he's wasting taxpayer money ...

    June 11, 2014 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  21. bobby frank

    This pretty much proves she is human and not some RNC machine

    June 12, 2014 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  22. aj

    Lincolngate. Has a nice ring to it. I wonder this is an indication of brain damage.

    Not what Clinton said, but the fact that the GOP is making this a 'thing'

    June 12, 2014 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  23. monkeebizns

    Since Hillary knows what the average middle class American is going through "we were broke" I have only one question for her. How many million dollar homes does the average middle class American family own?

    June 12, 2014 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  24. gnadfly@gmail.com

    You do realize this is posted on the Clinton News Network site? Potatoe.

    June 12, 2014 12:52 am at 12:52 am |
  25. Pendy

    Dan Quayle made her do it.

    June 12, 2014 12:55 am at 12:55 am |
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