The Abe Lincoln Gaffe


I have to admit that Barack Obama’s pathetic attempts to airbrush himself into history alongside legendary figures are just white noise to me at this point.  The first time I watched his speech last night, I laughed out loud when he mentioned Abe Lincoln, and drowned out the following sentences.

I had other fish to fry when poring over the transcript, but the indefatigable Ed Morrissey of Hot Air picked up on something I missed.  Obama apparently went off-teleprompter during his Lincoln reference, tossing in a little something extra:

We all remember Abraham Lincoln as the leader who saved our Union.  Founder of the Republican Party.  But in the middle of a Civil War, he was also a leader who looked to the future – a Republican president who mobilized government to build the transcontinental railroad; launch the National Academy of Sciences; and set up the first land grant colleges.

Morrissey offers the smartest President in history a little history lesson:

Er, not quite. Lincoln wasn’t even the GOP’s first Presidential nominee; the first Republican nominee was John C. Fremont in 1856. As the Independence Hall Association recalls, the actual founders of the Republican Party are “Northern leaders such as Horace Greeley, Salmon Chase and Charles Sumner.” Lincoln joined early, as did other anti-slavery Whigs whose party was unraveling at the time, and Lincoln came in second for the 1856 vice-presidential nomination, but he was not a founder of the party.  By the time he became a factor in the GOP, the party had already taken a majority in the House of Representatives (1855); it also carried 11 states and 114 electoral votes in the 1856 election that sent Democrat James Buchanan to the White House.

Next time Obama wants to lecture Republicans on their own history, maybe he should take the time to learn it first.

Obama’s folly might explain the expression on John Boehner’s face during the clip below:

Why did Obama feel the need to slip that into his remarks?  He just demonstrated embarrassing historical ignorance before a joint session of Congress, in a widely televised address… and it was wholly unnecessary.  The point he was trying to make, that Lincoln spent a lot of money on projects vaguely similar to the boondoggles Obama wants to blow hundreds of billions of dollars on, is entirely unrelated to whether Lincoln founded the Republican Party.  

Besides buttressing my big takeaway from last night’s speech – that our educational system has been ruined by Democrats and desperately needs to be privatized – it’s an interesting glimpse into a power-obsessed mindset that dates history according to politics.  Lincoln was the first really famous Republican, so he probably founded the party!  He spent a lot of money on trains and colleges, so Republicans therefore have infrastructure spending in their DNA!  How can they honestly oppose Obama’s plans for high speed rail?

As the President himself pointed out in the speech, we’re stuck with him for fourteen more months.  Might as well get a few laughs out of it.

Update: A reader very concisely makes some further, and devastating, points about the history of the transcontinental railroad:

Obama fumbled a few times historically.  Lincoln’s government did not build the transcontinental railroad.  Government started laying the groundwork going back to the 1850s, but the private sector did the job.  

Government involvement in the railroads led to some of the worst scandals in American history to that point, notably the Credit Mobilier scandal.  So citing government linkage with railroads really undermines the big government case.  

Also, it was Congress that initiated the Morrill Land Grant Act, which Obama seemed to want to paint as a creature of presidential power.