One of the most bizarre exchanges that took place during the second presidential debate started when Donald Trump tried to call Hillary Clinton to account for a statement made during one of the secret speeches to Wall Street bankers revealed by WikiLeaks. Clinton stated that a politician often has to have a private position on an issue that is different from a public one. Clinton responded by employing what many people are calling the “Abraham Lincoln Defense.”.
Hillary Clinton made a reference to the now famous Steven Spielberg movie that depicted the political maneuvers that Abraham Lincoln employed to pass the 13th Amendment that forbade slavery in the United States. Lincoln is portrayed as using a variety of tactics, including promises of political offices, which would put a president in jail in the 21st Century but was standard practice in the 19th. Interestingly, Lincoln is depicted as foreswearing monetary bribes.
However, Lincoln did not claim to oppose slavery in public and pretend to support it in private or the other way around. Clinton’s analogy did not make sense.
Trump deftly deflated it by noting the difference between “Corrupt Hillary” and ”Honest Abe.” Social media went ablaze with jokes about the Lincoln defense gambit. Hillary Clinton made herself ridiculous.
One of the cardinal rules of politics is that if one is going to compare oneself to a great leader of the past, one should live up to that comparison. In a 1988 vice presidential debate, then Sen. Dan Quayle compared himself to John F. Kennedy as a way to deflect questions about his then youth.
His opponent, Sen. Lloyd Bentsen made one of the greatest comebacks in political history. “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.” Bentsen was perhaps exaggerating his relationship with JFK and his ticket still lost the election, but the point was made.
Hillary Clinton needs to find another excuse or at least another analogy to explain why she openly boasted of being two-faced. Machiavelli comes to mind, though perhaps he is a toxic person considering his relationship to the Medici banking family.