One was a self-educated rail-splitter and circuit lawyer in humble frontier towns. The other is an Ivy League-educated radical who only ventured out from his comfortable Hyde Park digs for some day work stirring up trouble as a “community organizer.” But to watch MSNBC is to learn that Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama have so much in common.
In the run-up to Obama’s re-election and in the weeks since, as the movie “Lincoln,” opened, the media have hyped similarities between the two presidents. It’s helpful to them that the film is a product of high-profile liberal Steven Spielberg and associated with Participant Media, the same lefty company that produced Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth.”
On NPR on Nov. 30, sparring with the New York Times’ David Brooks over the “fiscal cliff,” E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post compared Obama’s zealous insistence on raising taxes to Lincoln’s abolitionism. When Brooks offered the “Lincoln” movie’s depiction of effective presidential negotiations, Dionne wasn’t having it. “Lincoln stood his ground on the fundamental principle that we needed the 13th Amendment and needed to ban slavery,” he said. “In fact, he was willing to have a Civil War on that question …”
MSNBC has particularly run with the theme. NBC Chief Political Correspondent Howard Fineman likened Obama to the Lincoln Memorial. “What Barack Obama was saying is, I was elected on the idea of hope. I was elected as a symbol, just like the statue of Abraham Lincoln on the Mall,” Fineman said.
MSNBC commentator and profession rabble-rouser Al Sharpton amped up his praise for Obama and offered more negative rhetoric toward conservatives. On the Nov. 8 broadcast of “Politics Nation,” Sharpton gushed, “Becoming the 44th president of the United States or even the first African-American president to hold the post has never been enough for Barack Obama. He spoke unabashedly of becoming one of the greatest presidents, a transformative figure like Abraham Lincoln.”
It makes a certain amount of sense, considering that a few days earlier, Sharpton had compared the Republican party to Confederate slave owners. But MSNBC has never missed an opportunity to associate today's conservative movement with the Confederacy, secession, slavery and racism in the past.
Sharpton and MSNBC guest Ana Maria Cox took shots at Republicans over state voter ID laws.
“Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves in 1863,” Sharpton said. “This is 2012. Somebody might want to tell them to find some Republicans at least this century. Maybe last century. This is ridiculous.”
Cox agreed, saying, “Yes, I was going to say that you know African Americans have a lot to owe to Abe Lincoln. I mean, that person, that Republican for sure. But, you know, let’s look at the Republican party lately and see what African Americans have to owe them for. Would it be voter suppression?”
On an October 29 episode of “Hardball” Chris Matthews and his guest John Nichols compared President Obama to Lincoln.
“I think we should recognize that Barack Obama has the advantages of the incumbency here, but he also has the great overwhelming challenge of the presidency on his shoulders, at a time when America is going through something that is historically unprecedented,” Matthews said.
“Abraham Lincoln dealing with the Civil War. That is really equivalent,” Nichols finished.
Other lefty outlets have also leapt at the chance to compare President Obama to Lincoln.
Huffington Post’s Dan Froomkin used disturbing language to compare the two presidents. “But ‘Lincoln’ is also very much a movie about how a newly elected second-term president can and must use his immense power to force a fractious Congress to do the right thing,” Froomkin wrote.
Similiarly The Washington Post’s Colbert King took shots at Mitt Romney before the election saying, “What would be the consequences for race of a Mitt Romney victory? A Romney takeover of the White House might well rival Andrew Johnson’s ascendancy to the presidency after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865.”