Hagiography In Review: How Media Liberals Tied Their Heroes to Lincoln

As CBS, NBC and MSNBC kept trying to use the new Lincoln movie to compare Lincoln to President Obama, it should be said that this is not the first time. Not even this month: Washington Post columnist Colbert King compared Obama to Lincoln and Romney to Andrew Johnson on the Saturday before the election.

Then there was 2008. For example, CNN’s David Gergen found strains of Lincoln in Obama’s Greek-columns convention speech on August 28, 2008: "In many ways, it was less a speech than a symphony. It moved quickly, it had high tempo, at times inspiring, then it became more intimate, slower, all along sort of interweaving a main theme about America's promise, echoes of Lincoln, of King, even of Reagan and of Kennedy....It was a masterpiece." Oh, but wait: Chris Matthews found echoes of Lincoln in Obama’s “race speech”:

“A speech worthy of Abraham Lincoln....What I personally view as the best speech ever given on race in this country....I think this is the kind of speech I think first graders should see, people in the last year of college should see before they go out in the world. This should be, to me, an American tract. Something that you just check in with, now and then, like reading Great Gatsby and Huckleberry Finn....One of the great speeches in American history.” — MSNBC’s Chris Matthews talking about Obama’s speech on race relations, March 18, 2008 Hardball.

Since the Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln movie is based on the book Team of Rivals by staunchly liberal historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, she was used repeatedly during the selection of the Obama cabinet – even though you’d hardly think of Bob Gates or Ray LaHood as Obama “rivals.”

Co-host Robin Roberts: “Some would say it’s a team of rivals, a la President Lincoln, or is a better comparison a team of geniuses as FDR did?”...

ABC’s George Stephanopoulos: “We have not seen this kind of combination of star power and brain power and political muscle this early in a cabinet in our lifetimes.” — ABC’s Good Morning America, November 24, 2008.

There are other cockeyed comparisons to Lincoln by media liberals:

Lincoln to John Kerry? "He [John Kerry] also could make a virtue, it seems to me, of the so-called flip-flopping. The greatest flip-flop in American history is Lincoln, [who] in his first Inaugural was not for emancipation and then two years later he was. Is that statesmanship or is that a flip-flop?" - Newsweek Managing Editor Jon Meacham during live pre-debate coverage on MSNBC, September 30, 2004.

Lincoln to Gorbachev? "He’s only the most important political leader alive in the world today, historically speaking....If you look over the course of our lifetimes, who was the most, well, you go back to Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt....If I look back over my lifetime, who is the world leader who changed things the most, and I don’t actually think it is a close call."
– Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter on Mikhail Gorbachev, April 27, 2001 Imus in the Morning on MSNBC.

Lincoln to Jesse Jackson? "Let Ronald Reagan ride off into the sunset untroubled by fleeting memories of astrologers, smoke-and-mirrors budget arithmetic, and arms-for-hostages swaps. Dwell instead on those political tall timbers still standing, the heirs of Jefferson, Madison, and Lincoln....Only Jesse Jackson, still an acquired taste for most white Americans, can strike the kind of inspirational pose that one could imagine being immortalized in granite." -- Time Senior Writer Walter Shapiro in the September 1990 GQ.

And there are cockeyed comparisons of conservatives to Lincoln’s opponents:

Lincoln’s assassins to Clinton’s impeachment prosecutors: "Today’s Washington Post [editorial] says...‘Mr. Starr should be remembered as a man who, hampered alike by intensely adverse conditions and by his own missteps, managed to perform a significant public service,’ end quote. Missteps? What would The Washington Post call the Lincoln assassination? Missteps?"
-- Geraldo Rivera on CNBC’s Rivera Live, October 20, 1999.

Lincoln’s opponents to George W. Bush:

"It would seemingly be impossible to re-create the mindset of the national politics of the year 1864. But consider the fact that in the middle of the Civil War, just after the capture of Atlanta, with victory, as it proved, no more than five months away, with only people in the Northern states eligible to cast a ballot, with all that, 45 percent of all voters still voted against the Republican, Abraham Lincoln, and for the Democrat, George McClellan. McClellan, whose campaign platform consisted entirely of promising to immediately end the war, let the South secede, and let slavery continue there, 45 percent, 1.8 million out of 4 million voters said yes to that.
"Our third story in the Countdown: Well, maybe it isn't impossible to re-create the mindset of the national politics of the year 1864. The latest Gallup poll results are in. Only 10 percent of Democrats give the President a positive rating for his response to the hurricane [Katrina], and only 10 percent of Republicans give the President a negative rating for his response to the hurricane. Taken as a whole, 10 percent of the country thinks Mr. Bush did great, 25 percent good, 21 percent neither good nor bad, 18 percent bad, 24 percent terrible. Cut out the middle, that's 35 percent good or great and 42 percent bad or terrible. In that black-and-white fashion, he gets about the same blame as everybody else." – MSNBC host Keith Olbermann on Countdown, September 7, 2005.

There's more at our Abraham Lincoln page.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis