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Herman Cain Quotes Obscure 20th-Century Strike-Breaker And Misattributes It To Lincoln

Herman Cain misquotes Abraham Lincoln

In this brief clip from CNN, supposed GOP front-runner assails the "Occupy Wall Street" movement as a waste of time, and a front for the Democratic party and Barack Obama's re-election hopes. What caught my ear, however, was the line he uses and attributes to Abraham Lincoln:

You don't help the poor by hurting the rich.

Republicans have been using it for decades, most famously by Ronald Reagan at the 1992 Republican National Convention, when he said in his speech:

I heard those speakers at that other convention saying "we won the Cold War" -- and I couldn't help wondering, just who exactly do they mean by "we?" And to top it off, they even tried to portray themselves as sharing the same fundamental values of our party! What they truly don't understand is the principle so eloquently stated by Abraham Lincoln: "You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot help the wage-earner by pulling down the wage-payer. You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves."

None of which Abraham Lincoln ever said.

Those axioms were from one Rev. William John Henry Boetcker, a now obscure historical figure but in 1916 the director of Citizens' Industrial Alliance, which later became the Citizens' Alliance, a pro-employer organization notable for its strike breaking, anti-union efforts in the early part of the twentieth century.

Snopes details this authoritatively here.

I suppose none of this should come as a shock from any Republican, and especially not from a potential Republican nominee who takes his inspiration from children's cartoons, a man who until recently seemed more interested in selling his book than actually winning the nomination. And indeed this clip, and his later interview with Lawrence O'Donnell for MSNBC were done in a bookstore, Cain hawking his book and campaigning at the same time.

Republicans have been fabulously successful at creating and marketing their own mythology for at least the last forty years, unsurprisingly coincident with the decline of the middle class and ever greater wealth in the hands of the few. It's no wonder someone like Herman Cain doesn't understand the Occupy Wall Street movement or the real resentment out there just beginning to surface.

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