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. Greene

    Who cares about such an inconsequential mistake? She was, as almost always, making a good point. She certainly wasn't saying that the slaves were happy or that black people should be re-enslaved, things Republicans have said that reflect one truly weird view of history.

    June 12, 2014 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  2. Fred Flinstone

    Please, no more Clintons or Bushes.

    June 12, 2014 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  3. floyd from illinois

    It's too bad that th Republicans haven't got anything better to talk about, than such pettiness.

    June 12, 2014 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  4. Geoff Maguire

    OMG its obviously Alzheimer's! Quick somebody call Karl Rove!

    June 12, 2014 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  5. 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.

    June 12, 2014 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  6. bob

    Be careful of your criticism folks......i mean how good is YOUR knowledge of 150 yr old history at this level of detail? Quick now.....who was your state governor in 1901 ( I'll be kind and only go back 113 yrs)? No peeking on Wikipedia now....

    June 12, 2014 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  7. Jason Marcel (@moviejay)

    This isn't newsworthy stuff. It's actually the kind of fodder that you'd see on FOX, but I guess CNN must be trying to scrape the bottom of the barrel along with them.

    June 12, 2014 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  8. palintwit

    At this point, what does it matter now?

    June 12, 2014 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  9. john

    Just mentioning clinton with Lincoln in the same article is like comparing the Almighty with Satan.

    June 12, 2014 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  10. guest

    of course when Palin made mistakes.. They all laughed

    June 12, 2014 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  11. Scarface86

    Come on, it's not like she said she was dodging sniper fire.

    June 12, 2014 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  12. Susan

    Probably due to her failing memory? Listening to her speak, she does not come across as "Presidential" in the least.

    June 12, 2014 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  13. Malory Archer

    of course when Palin made mistakes.. They all laughed


    Of course they did – her mistakes are comedy gold!

    June 12, 2014 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  14. TheBUrp

    How about Obama's " My Muslim faith" comment?

    June 12, 2014 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  15. Hilary Clinton

    Lincoln was a senator! Republicans are wrong he was not a president. I did nothing wrong in Benghazi! I did not steal 6 billion from the state department and I want to be your president!

    June 12, 2014 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  16. Anonymous

    Oh I really hope America does not elect her President. I will lose all faith in Americans if this happens. She is not qualified and if you dont see the writing on the wall then we are doomed.

    June 12, 2014 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  17. Honey Clover

    Abraham Lincoln was an U.S. Representative from Illinois. Senators and Representatives are all congressmen.

    RE: Hillary's error: Yes it does matter. If you are not accurate in the "petty" things of life, how can you be trusted in the matters that are of great importance?

    June 12, 2014 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  18. Pathetic

    @Greene – yes who cares about an 'inconsequential mistake' as you call it. Barack Obama has make bad to good decisions at about a 20:1 clip. No one appears to care about that – until you find out what it's going to be like for the country balancing the books after ObamaCare/ACA crumbles.

    Some folks just don't understand basic math – Obama is one of those.

    June 12, 2014 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  19. jacknyd

    Amazing on how they are trying to justify all her lies and mistakes. Like Benghazi.

    June 12, 2014 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  20. MacKrable

    And she gets paid a quarter-mil for speaking..

    June 12, 2014 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  21. beachlive

    By Clinton's comparing Lincoln with Obama in that statement, she should also note that things did not go well for Lincoln in the end.

    June 12, 2014 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  22. Chisox guy

    Why would she know Illinois history. Isnt she from NY...LOL....

    June 12, 2014 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  23. scarf

    Scott in Michigan

    Imagine if Mitt Romney made this mistake in 2012? It would be headline news...


    And with Hillary making this mistake in 2014, it's......Oh, that's right. Headline news.

    June 12, 2014 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  24. Southerner01

    Another thing that will be a similarity is that neither ever went on to become president.

    June 12, 2014 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  25. rmm

    I am a republican and I have to admit that this is not even news worthy... This is about as minor a "flub" as there could be.

    June 12, 2014 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
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