CNN's Kyra Phillips on Obama: 'Lincoln Came to Life'

CNN’s Kyra Phillips marked the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth on Thursday’s American Morning by harkening back to Barack Obama’s decision to announce his candidacy for president on the steps of the Old State Capitol Building in Springfield, Illinois, where the 16th president once worked: “It was here in the Old Capitol that Abraham Lincoln gave his famous ‘House Divided’ speech. A house divided against itself cannot stand, he proclaimed. Sound familiar? Fast-forward -- February 10th, 2007, Lincoln came to life here as if it were 1858.” She then remarked that with the Democrat’s announcement, “we all witnessed Lincoln’s dream and Obama’s reality.”

The correspondent’s odd comparison came at the end of the 8 pm Eastern hour of the CNN program, as part of the network’s all-day “From Lincoln to Obama” special programming. Phillips traveled to Springfield for the occasion, and began her report with another “parallel,” as she put, between the two presidents concerning their names: “For example, this campaign flag [from Lincoln’s presidential campaign]. Look at this -- ‘Abram Lincoln.’ They even spelled his name wrong. So it wasn’t just Obama that’s been having issues with his name -- also, Abraham Lincoln. Just one of the parallels that we found as we’ve been spending time here.”

Phillips played three sound bites from tourists visiting Lincoln’s home in the Illinois capital, all of whom played up the Obama/Lincoln connections. She made the strongest push for the supposed “parallels” between the two later in her report:

PHILLIPS: Obama, a law professor and civil rights lawyer, inspired by what took place in this law office centuries ago. Lincoln, the lawyer -- a strong orator with a sense of morality, open to new ideas, listening to his critics. Two attorneys, two different lifetimes -- both men dedicated to being scholars of the Constitution.
Near the end of the report, Phillips made her “Lincoln came to life” remark, and after playing a clip from Obama’s 2007 announcement, she gushed that “for the first time in history, in the humble heart of the Midwest, we all witnessed Lincoln’s dream and Obama’s reality. Abe Lincoln knew who we were. He just didn’t know what we might become -- until now.”

The full transcript of Kyra Phillip’s report from Thursday’s American Morning:
KYRA PHILLIPS: ...[I]t’s not just not talk about Lincoln. It’s talk about Lincoln and the Obama connection. For example, this campaign flag [from Lincoln’s presidential campaign]. Look at this -- ‘Abram Lincoln.’ They even spelled his name wrong. So it wasn’t just Obama that’s been having issues with his name -- also, Abraham Lincoln. Just one of the parallels that we found as we’ve been spending time here.

PHILLIPS (voice-over): This is a tale of two presidents -- united through the best of times, the worst of times. And how Springfield, Illinois, launched two progressive politicians destined to make history.

PHILLIPS (on-camera): So when you go through Lincoln’s home, and then you see that Barack Obama is now the president of the United States, what were you thinking about going through the house?

ANN TSCHETTER, TOURST FROM LINCOLN, NEBRASKA: That Lincoln is going, ‘this rocks,’ or whatever he would have used in 19th century lingo. (laughs)

PHILLIPS (voice-over): Just imagine what Abraham Lincoln was thinking -- at home, sitting in his parlor, relaxing in his rocker --

PHILLIPS (on-camera): And writing here at his desk. He would be the leader to free slaves, fulfilling the Declaration of Independence, declaring ‘all men are created equal.’

PHILLIPS (voice-over): Two hundred years later --

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA (from January 20, 2009): I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear --

PHILLIPS: Barack Obama would reach the pinnacle of that ideal.

BROOK SIMPSON, TOURIST FROM CHANDLER, ARIZONA: This is the Lincoln dream, the right to rise, culminating in a different way with the first African-American as president of the United States.

PHILLIPS: Obama, a law professor and civil rights lawyer, inspired by what took place in this law office centuries ago. Lincoln, the lawyer -- a strong orator with a sense of morality, open to new ideas, listening to his critics. Two attorneys, two different lifetimes -- both men dedicated to being scholars of the Constitution.

KEN WINKLE, TOURIST FROM LINCOLN, NEBRAKSA: Some lawyers and some politicians will just do anything to win, but I think the spirit of working together to do the right thing and do the most good for the most people was important to Lincoln and it seems that we’re moving toward a time when --

PHILLIPS (on-camera): Same with Obama?

WINKLE: Exactly.

PHILLIPS: And it was here in the Old Capitol that Abraham Lincoln gave his famous ‘House Divided’ speech. A house divided against itself cannot stand, he proclaimed. Sound familiar? Fast-forward -- February 10th, 2007, Lincoln came to life here as if it were 1858.

OBAMA (from 2007): It’s because of the millions who rallied to his cause, we’re no longer divided north and south, slave and free.

PHILLIPS (voice-over): Barack Obama announcing his candidacy for president of the United States, and for the first time in history, in the humble heart of the Midwest, we all witnessed Lincoln’s dream and Obama’s reality. Abe Lincoln knew who we were. He just didn’t know what we might become -- until now.
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center