Posted on June 25, 2012



An MSNBC Transcript of

Lincoln’s Historic Speeches


Daniel Clark



“Four years ago our fathers proposition all men.  Now we are engaged in testing whether so conceived.  We are great on a resting place.  It is altogether fitting that we do this.  But men, living and dead, can never forget what they did here.  It is for us to be unfinished work.  It is rather for us the full measure of devotion, that we resolve a new birth.”

Well, what do you know?  It seems as if those rumors about Abraham Lincoln might have been true after all.   He does appear to be a bit confused about the facts of life, however, and his grammar is terrible.  But wait, there’s more.

“If we first judge what to do, and how to do it, I do expect it where the public shall rest, till it shall become alike lawful in all the states.  This opened all the national territory to be otherwise perverted.  Then opened the loose squatter.  Nebraska Bill was passing through a territory and held him for a long time.  The new president had ever been entertained.  And well may he cling to that squatter.  That struggle was made on a piece of machinery, imported as such to the benefit of the citizens.

“This point is made thus to enhance him against the holder, but not to be pressed.  Several things were to be left perfectly free to outsiders.  The individual withheld the outgoing felicitation in favor of the cautious patting and petting, preparatory to mounting him.”

If you doubt that Lincoln really said these things, you might change your mind after Abraham Lincoln: Midnight Cowboy hits the theaters next summer.  Of course, you could simply look it up for yourself.  The opening paragraph is from the Gettysburg Address, and the second collection of quotes comes from his House Divided speech.  You’ll find that he said all of these words, and in the same order in which they are represented here.  Hence, these quotations are entirely accurate, at least according to the lofty editorial standards of MSNBC.

This is how that network excerpted a recent stump speech by Mitt Romney, during which he referenced a regional convenience store chain called Wawa.

“By the way, where do you get your hoagies here?  Do you get them at Wawa’s?  Is that where you get them?  Well, I went to a place today called Wawa’s.  You ever been to Wawa’s?  Anybody been there?  Some people don’t – I’m sorry, I know it’s a very big state divide.  But we went to Wawa’s … I was at Wawa’s.  I went in to order a sandwich.  You press the little touch-tone keypad, all right?  You just touch that, and, you know, the sandwich comes.  You touch this, touch this, touch this, go pay the cashier, there’s your sandwich.  It’s amazing.”

Anchorwoman Andrea Mitchell found this amusing, because it fit in with the media’s caricature of the wealthy Republican who can’t relate to “the little guy.”  Romney came off sounding like John Kerry after a field trip to Wendy’s, except that he actually liked it.  What Mitchell didn’t know, or more likely didn’t care about, was that the main point of the speech had been edited out.

Where the ellipsis appears after the phrase, “But we went to Wawa’s,” this is what Romney said: “And it was instructive to me, because I saw the difference between the private sector and the governmental sector.  Look, the people who work in government are good people, and I respect what they do, but you see the challenge with government is it doesn’t have competition.”  He revisited this theme at the point where the MSNBC excerpt stopped, when he added, “People in the private sector have learned how to compete.  It’s time to bring some competition to the federal government so it can begin to respond to customers, which are you. [sic]”

Romney clearly meant for his professed amazement to be taken ironically, in that it truly would have been amazing for government to conduct itself as efficiently as a private enterprise like Wawa.  In reality, he probably isn’t that much more impressed with the store’s sandwich-making process than President Lincoln was with the amorous escapades of Nebraska Bill.

MSNBC cut and pasted Romney’s words like letters on a ransom note, deliberately arranging them to say something they didn’t mean in their original context.  That’s not the news, any more than the quotes attributed to Lincoln here constitute a biography.

To borrow another condensed quote from Honest Abe, “You can fool people.”



Return to Shinbone

 The Shinbone: The Frontier of the Free Press 

 Mailbag . Issue Index . Politimals