Abraham Lincoln Would Have Recognized the Con Man Trump

tags: election 2016, Lincoln, Trump

Sidney Blumenthal, former special assistant to President Bill Clinton, is the author of A Self-Made Man: The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln, 1809–1849, published by Simon & Schuster.

Donald J. Trump may understand little about the founder of the party of Lincoln, but Abraham Lincoln, who contended with the most picturesque range of con men, speculators and demagogues, would have understood Trump.

As a lawyer, Lincoln was intimately involved in litigation involving many of Trump’s woes—bankruptcy, real estate disputes, debt collection and divorce. He also represented counterfeiters and burglars.

Lincoln would even have known of them as “con men.” The phrase was current. Herman Melville published his novel The Confidence-Man, about a cheat working his craft on suckers on a Mississippi River steamboat, in 1857.

As a politician, Lincoln refuted the spurious arguments of the most cunning and ruthless men of his time, down to the notion that slavery was “liberty.” While Lincoln was familiar with every species of charlatan, he drew a distinction between mere frauds, who sometimes bemused him, and dangerous demagogues.

Trump’s most comprehensive statement on Lincoln during the campaign was his remark that he could be “more presidential than anybody except the great Abe Lincoln.” ...

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