IS TRUMP LIKE LINCOLN?

February 13, 2019 at 5:15 am

Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer makes the case that President Donald Trump is a lot like “Honest Abe.” He’s here to explain how.

Aired February 12, 2019.

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>>> DESPITE CENTURIES BETWEEN
THEM TWO AMERICAN PRESIDENTS
SHARED A PASSION FOR BIG IDEAS,
UNCONVENTIONAL ORTORY SKILLS AND
A RELATIONSHIP WITH AN
ESTABLISHMENT THAT DOUBTED THEIR
CHANCES OF WINNING THE
PRESIDENCY.
ONE OF THEM IS OUR CURRENT
PRESIDENT TRUMP.
BUT THE OTHER MIGHT SURPRISE
YOU.
THAT'S BECAUSE IT'S ABRAHAM
LINCOLN.
ARE THERE MORE PARALLELS BETWEEN
LINCOLN AND TRUMP THAN YOU MIGHT
THINK?
JOINING ME IS LINCOLN SCHOLAR
HAROLD HOLTZER FROM HUNTER
COLLEGE AND THE FORMER SENIOR
VICE PRESIDENT OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS
AT THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF
ART.
MOST PEOPLE I SUSPECT YOU ASK
THEM ABOUT ABRAHAM LINCOLN.
THEY'RE GOING TO THINK ONE OF
OUR GREATEST PRESIDENTS EVER.
HE MUST HAVE SURELY WON IN A
LANDSLIDE.
TELL US WHAT THE REALITY WAS FOR
LINCOLN RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT
FOR THE FIRST TIME.
>> THE DIVISIVENESS BETWEEN BLUE
STATES AND GRAY STATES WAS A LOT
TENSER THAN EVEN BETWEEN BLUE
STATES AND RED STATES.
AS YOU MIGHT EXPECT, THE ENTIRE
SOUTH VOTED AGAINST LINCOLN.
IN FACT, HIS NAME WASN'T EVEN ON
THE BALLOT IN A NUMBER OF DEEP
SOUTH STATES.
IN THE END WHILE HE WON THE
ELECTORAL MAJORITY, HE ONLY WON
39.9% OF THE POPULAR VOTE.
I THINK THAT'S STILL THE LOWEST
TOTAL OF ANY WINNER IN A
PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, AT LEAST
THE LAST 200 YEARS OF
PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS.
OBVIOUSLY THERE WERE PEOPLE
THERE WHO WOULD NOT RECOGNIZE
THE RESULT AND THEY DIDN'T.
>> WE'VE HEARD SO MUCH BEING
MADE OF THE FACT THAT DONALD
TRUMP AS A CAMPAIGNER
ESSENTIALLY CREATED A MEANS OF
GOING AROUND THE PRESS, ALMOST
SAYING TO THEM I DON'T NEED YOU,
I CAN TWEET, I CAN GET MY
MESSAGES OUT THERE.
TALK ABOUT ABRAHAM LINCOLN AND
HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH THE PRESS.
>> AT THE BEGINNING IT WAS VERY
CONVENTIONAL.
AT THE TIME THE PRESS WAS OPENLY
PROUDLY PARTISAN.
SO THERE WERE REPUBLICAN
NEWSPAPERS AND DEMOCRATIC
NEWSPAPERS.
WHERE HE BEGINS TO DO MORE
MANIPULATION AND GOING AROUND
THE ESTABLISHED PRESS CULTURE OF
THE DAY WHEN HE WAS PRESIDENT.
WHEN HE DEVISED THIS FASCINATING
NEW MEANS OF COMMUNICATION AND
IT IS VERY MUCH LIKE TWITTER.
HE CALLED IT THE PUBLIC LETTER.
HE WOULD WRITE A LETTER TO A
POLITICAL OPPONENT OR A
JOURNALIST, A GOVERNOR, AND HE
WOULD GIVE THE LETTER NOT ONLY
TO ITS RECIPIENT, BUT TO A
NEWSPAPER.
ONE NEWSPAPER WOULD PUBLISH IT
AND THEN THE NEXT DAY EVERY
NEWSPAPER WOULD PUBLISH IT,
USUALLY ON THE FRONT PAGE.
IN THIS WAY, LINCOLN COMMUTE
COMMUNICATED DIRECTLY WITH THE
PEOPLE.
>> WE'VE SEEN SOME REAL
ANIMOSITY BETWEEN PRESIDENT
TRUMP AND SOME MEMBERS OF THE
MEDIA.
LET'S GO BACK TO LINCOLN'S TIME.
DURING THE COURSE OF THE CIVIL
WAR AND THE SUSPENSION OF
CERTAIN CIVIL LIBERTIES, HOW
ABOUT ANIMOSITY BETWEEN LINCOLN
AND THE PRESS IN THAT ERA?
>> PRESIDENT TRUMP HAS A LONG
WAY TO GO TO GET TO THE POINT
LINCOLN WAS AT WITH THE PRESS.
HE LOCKED UP JOURNALISTS.
DEMOCRATIC NEWSPAPERS IN NEW
YORK BEGAN TO DISCOURAGE
RECRUITS ENLISTING IN THE ARMY.
LINCOLN THREW THE SECRETARY OF
STATE, THE POSTMASTER GENERAL,
PREVENTED NEWSPAPERS FROM GOING
THROUGH THE MAIL, HAD THEM
SEIZED FROM TRAINS, ULTIMATELY
LOCKED UP EDITORS AND CLOSED
DOWN NEWSPAPERS.
THEY WERE PRETTY VICIOUSLY
RACIST NEWSPAPERS, BUT LINCOLN
ABROGATED FREEDOM OF THE PRESS
COMPLETELY.
THE OTHER PERIL, THE SHOCK THAT
WE ALL HAVE ABOUT THE NOTION OF
FAKE NEWS, ABRAHAM LINCOLN WAS A
MASTER OF FAKE NEWS .
IN THE RUNUP TO EMANCIPATION IN
1862, HE WROTE SEVERAL OPENLY
DISINGENUOUS PUBLIC LETTERS
SAYING WHAT HE DID ABOUT
EMANCIPATION HE DID ONLY TO SAVE
THE UNION.
IF HE COULD SAVE THE UNION
WITHOUT FREEING ANY SLAVES, HE
WOULD HAPPILY DO SO.
THAT WAS PUBLISHED.
BUT WHAT MADE IT DISINGENUOUS
WAS THAT HE HAD ALREADY WRITTEN
THE EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION.
LINCOLN SAID WITHOUT PUBLIC
SENTIMENT YOU CAN'T DO ANYTHING,
THAT HE WHO MOVES OPINION IS
MORE IMPORTANT THAN PEOPLE WHO
ENACT STATUTES.
LINCOLN WAS WILLING TO BOW TO
PUBLIC OPINION AND THE JUDGMENT
OF THE PEOPLE.
WHAT I THINK IS THE DIFFERENCE
HERE IS THAT HE NEVER DENIED
THAT PUBLIC OPINION WAS BEING
GAUGED ACCURATELY.
HE NEVER SUGGESTED EXCEPT AROUND
THE EDGES OF RACE POLITICS AND
IMMIGRATION POLITICS ANOTHER
ISSUE THAT WAS BIG IN LINCOLN'S
TIME, THAT ELECTIONS WERE
RIGGED.
HE DID HAVE, AS HE PUT IT,
REFERENCE FOR REVERENCE FOR THE
LAWS AND A HEALTHY RESPECT FOR
PUBLIC OPINION.
>> YOU BE WELL.
>> HAPPY LINCOLN'S BIRTHDAY.
>> THANK YOU SO MUCH.
TAKE CARE.

Mutual of America PSEG

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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