By this time, Barack Obama should know better than to go off the TelePrompter. In the text of the speech last night given to a joint session of Congress, Obama was supposed to make a single reference to Abraham Lincoln:
We all remember Abraham Lincoln as the leader who saved our Union. 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.
Unfortunately, Obama felt the need to take a partisan shot at his opposition, and in doing so, offered up a historic flub (via Greg Hengler):
We all remember Abraham Lincoln as the leader who saved our Union. Founder of the Republican Party.
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.
Update: Even as late as 1855, Lincoln resisted the temptation to abandon the Whigs:
When just about most Whigs, north and south, had abandoned the party in droves, Lincoln tenaciously clung to the Whig designation until he eventually bowed to political realities. Lincoln joined the Republicans in large part due to his distaste of the nativism of other emerging major party: the Know Nothings. Lincoln abhorred their anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic platform and so decided that the Republicans were the most palatable of the “anti-Nebraska” (those opposed to the Kansas-Nebraska act and the extension of slavery) parties emerging in the United States.
Lincoln’s letter to Joshua Speed, dated August 24, 1855, explains his reluctance to leave the Whigs and to adopt the Republican moniker.
Be sure to read it all.
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