Al Gore Caught Using Bogus Lincoln Quote
As reported by the Washington Post:
You can’t really blame Al Gore for not using footnotes in his new book, “The Assault on Reason.” It’s a sprawling, untidy blast of indignation, and annotating it with footnotes would be like trying to slip rubber bands around a puddle of quicksilver. Still, I’d love to know where he found the scary quote from Abraham Lincoln that he uses on page 88.But maybe this is such a tough historical call that we can’t really expect Gore to get it straight, right?
In a chapter entitled “The Politics of Wealth,” Gore argues that the ancient threat to democracy posed by rich people run amok has finally been realized under the man who beat him in the 2000 presidential race. Even Lincoln, Gore says, saw the age of Bush coming in 1864: “I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.”
The quote is a favorite of liberal bloggers, which is probably how Gore came across it. And as a description of how many on the left see the country seven years into their Bush nightmare, it’s pretty much perfect.
Too perfect, in fact. If you’re familiar with Lincoln’s distinctive way of expressing himself, you’ll hear the false notes the passage strikes. For one thing, Lincoln just wasn’t the “trembling” kind -- or if he was, he kept his trembling to himself. Words such as “enthroned” and “aggregated” are a bit too fancy for his plain, unclotted prose, and the phrase “money power” suggests a conspiratorial turn of mind that would have been foreign to him. Indeed, these words don’t show up anywhere else in “The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln” (which, thanks to Gore’s Internet, are now searchable at http://quod.lib.umich.edu/l/lincoln/).
Moreover, the point of the passage is very un-Lincolnian. A corporate lawyer whose long and cunning labor on behalf of the railroads earned him a comfortable income, Lincoln was a vigorous champion of market capitalism, even when it drifted (as it tends to do) toward large concentrations of wealth. Many of his administration’s signal initiatives -- the transcontinental railroad, for example -- amounted to what liberals today would condemn as “corporate welfare.” Lots of speculators got rich under Lincoln, as Gore notes. As Gore does not note, Lincoln seemed not to have minded.
Unless, of course, Gore’s quote from a trembling Abe was evidence of his real thinking.
It isn’t, though. It’s a fake.
No, it’s been debunked on Snopes.com (the first place any savvy person will turn to check out anything found on the Internet) since at least July, 2002.
To ask the obvious question: if we can’t trust Gore to get easily checked historical facts right, how reliable is he on a technical issue like global warming?
The answer: even some liberal global warming believers like Gregg Easterbrook have taken Gore to task for slipshod handing of the facts.
Even more questionable, however, is Gore’s use of anti-business demagoguery.