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How Accurate is the Movie Lincoln?
4 years ago

November 22, 2012

A great many families going to the movies over this Thanksgiving weekend will probably see Lincoln, Steven Spielberg's new film starring Daniel Day-Lewis and an impressive cast.

Based on a biography by Doris Kearns Goodwin, but scripted by playwright and screenwriter Tony Kushner, it's been very well-reviewed, but here's a question: How true to history is it?

Ronald White, author of A. Lincoln: A Biography, tells NPR's Linda Wertheimer that if a ninth-grader were to write a school paper based on the film, she'd find that its "dramatic core" is basically on target.


Interview Highlights

On the film's overall historical correctness

"The dramatic core of this remarkable four months of trying to pass the 13th Amendment [which banned slaver] is true. Is every word true? No. Did Lincoln say, 'And to unborn generations ...'? No. But this is not a documentary. And so I think the delicate balance or blend between history and dramatic art comes off quite well."

On William Seward and the three lobbyists he employs

"I think the movie is wanting in one way to disabuse us of the sense that Lincoln is this high-minded idealist who wouldn't stoop to using the machine to get votes. And [Secretary of State] Seward — remember, he was Lincoln's chief rival for the Republican nomination for president — is a shrewd politician. He's in this with Lincoln; he's not an unwilling co-conspirator. And he's willing to do things sort of outside the box, that Lincoln perhaps can't do. I doubt that Lincoln actually met these three men, but Seward delivers the votes [on the 13th Amendment] in a variety of ways."

On the over-the-top drama of House debates in the film

"You don't hear anything in the House anymore; you only hear someone giving an address for C-SPAN. I mean, one of the wonderful parts of the movie is that all of them are there, they're listening; some of them are going to be persuaded. It suggests an earlier time of a much more active Congress."

On radical Republican leader Thaddeus Stevens, played as a hero by Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln, but as a villain in 1942's Tennessee Johnson

"The earlier movie ... was produced before the civil rights movement, or in the Gone With the Wind movement, when yes, abolitionists were evil guys. Now, since the civil rights movement, we see them as courageous leaders advocating rights for African-Americans, and so we have a different viewpoint on Thaddeus Stevens. I think the movie gets it right here."

On Kate Maser's New York Times op-ed, which criticized the film for keeping black people quietly in the background

"I think that's a point well taken. And what the audience doesn't fully understand, in the final scene — almost the final scene — where suddenly African-Americans arrive in the balcony as the final vote is to be taken, that one of those is Charles Douglass, the son of Frederick Douglass. Charles had fought in the famous Massachusetts 54th; he will write to his father after that climactic vote: 'Oh, Father, how wonderful it is. People were cheering, they were crying tears of joy.' So that had the potential for more black agency, but it doesn't come to full fruition in the film."

On whether freeing the slaves was the prime motive of Abraham Lincoln, as the film suggests

"I think we still don't understand, sadly, although historians have been telling us this for a generation — that slavery really was a cause of the war. However, Lincoln did start the war to save the Union; he did not start the war originally to free the slaves. But that became a purpose for him when he realized that he could no longer move forward without a true understanding of liberty and union. He ran in 1864 for re-election on the slogan 'Liberty and Union,' and so it becomes the second purpose of the Civil War."

On Daniel Day-Lewis

"I was very pleased with Daniel Day-Lewis' depiction of Lincoln. He does a delicate balance between the homely Lincoln — the homespun Lincoln — and the high Lincoln of the second inaugural address. He walks like Lincoln, the way he puts his feet down one at a time. He talks like Lincoln — not the baritone voice of Disneyland, but the high tenor voice. Daniel Day-Lewis studied Lincoln intensely, and what comes out is a very accurate depiction of the spirit of the man."

This post was modified from its original form on 22 Nov, 5:47
4 years ago

It was an excellent movie and very appropriate right now!
It is visually stunning and sad; but thought provoking that the war between conservatism and progressives was just as strong in 1865 and it is today. This was by far one of the best movies I have seen in a long time.

4 years ago

The one thing I took away from this movie is the ridiculous labeling which I never used in my life til I came to Care2.

I saw only parties, democrat, republican and independents. I saw similarities but never extremism; what has happened in the past 4 years?

4 years ago

...past eight years.  I think it's the result of the American people getting fed up without really knowing the cause of what's got them fed up, so they don't know how to fix it. In their ignorance they actually believe these people who run for Congress and President 1) have honorable intentions, and 2) that by some kind of magic these politicians are suddenly Constitutional and economic gurus when nothing could be further from the truth.

Both the DNC and the RNC are going to implode, eventually.  The sooner the better.

4 years ago

I want to see this movie...looks very good

4 years ago

If Lincoln and history were being portrayed accurately I'd be have been the first in line to see it. But that's not the case.

4 years ago

Katii, if you feel that way then read all the books out on Lincoln.  Speilberg used the narrative written by democrat Doris Kearns Goodwin who once worked for LBJ.


O'Reilly wrote Killing Lincoln and there are several other promiment books written about the Lincoln presidency to clarify his leadership.


Katii:  I also believe that the schism within the republican party will be a good thing in the end.


I think DeMint moving to the Heritage Found. will act as a medium to get some conciliation.

The libertarian movement needs to be heard fully and there needs to be a total revamping of republican conservatism and principles which will strengthen the platform.


I do see the problems from progressive republicans who should go to the democrats if they want their brand to be used in governing.  I was mad with the Dump Romney booklet which was far too exaggerated.  I did find excellent review of Romney by a repubican conservative from MA who could not support MR for president. 


She made good points and too bad this was not broadly discussed during the nominating process.  I will put up the link and I will discuss it openly if anyone wishes to. 


I was far more conservative as a MA democrat than Romney was a republican during his governorship.  I was aware of some of it; but not to the extent that this woman pointed out the record in detail.  Too bad, this was not opened up as I never found it in my extensive research during the nominations.




This post was modified from its original form on 10 Dec, 4:37
4 years ago

SL, you should read Judge Andrew Napalitano's new book, Theodore and Woodrow: How Two American Presidents Destroyed Constitutional Freedom

And Liberty Defined by Ron Paul

4 years ago

I think it is high time that the GOP purge itself permanently of RINOS, progressive liberal phonies who feign to be republicans.


I would like to see Rand Paul and Gov. Martinez be more publicized within the GOP, they might do the party some good as they are far more conservative in principles.


I will look into those books Katii.  Thank you.  Judge Napalatano does not have a show anymore on Fox why?  he is a guest on Cavuto and sometimes Greta.

4 years ago

The Judge lost his really good show because he was critical of all the unconstitutional actions of government. He's a Constitutional scholar, and defender (and an ex-federal circuit judge of course). So he had to go; but he's living out his contract by guesting on various other shows.

4 years ago

I remember him from Court TV years ago and he was always scholarly and reviewed cases with intellectual analysis and the law.  His reviews were the best.


I think Fox cowers down to MSM in the end.  It is too bad that there is NO news outlets that don't give in and stand alone when they have to.  Fox is the best we have but it is not bold.


It appears that the MSM is deliberately going after all patriots who KNOW the law and speak out truthfully.  They want this constitution rewritten into a living one which can be changed at whim by these idiots in control. 


I am so disgusted and I was really angered at the Mitt Romney article coming out so late; very few knew ... I believe she did contact libertarians but not the party in general.

The GOP needs to run Rand Paul this time and make a very strong committment to conservative principles.   Why do they want semi-democrats controlling the party? 

There is very little differences in some of these politicians.

Obama is def. leaning communist and Mitt was capitalism but Mitt cannot be trusted on huge issues e.g. social, constitutional, states, federal mandates.   I am afraid he would have been the same as Obama in many of these or worse because the Republicans would not expect it.  I now understand Matt Kibbe saying the GOP needed to control Romney if he won.


Obama will create a mess and if Hillary gets in; the country gets worse.

Obamaism is socialism and these deadbrains on Care2 mainpages, yell that we are inciting fear about Obama.  How stupid and braindead are they?  This country is being turned upside down by Obama and he favors Marx over founding fathers.  

4 years ago

"I think it is high time that the GOP purge itself permanently of RINOS, progressive liberal phonies who feign to be republicans."

Most republicans are what is now called RINOs.  I don't see them as progressoves at all.  Just not evangelical.

4 years ago

Nancy:  I don't know enough about the GOP at this time except that there is a great schism going on between the establishment or RINOS and the libertarians and tea party members.

There is a distinction between all three groups.

Until they get their act together and work in unison; they are ineffective.

They are being shown up right now by Obama, who has a masterful game plan and his groundforce is superior.


Jim Messina sends out emails which are convincing about the debate about taxing the 2% and what happens if the GOP does not get onboard.  I believe a lot what he states.  I will put up the email.   Where is the GOP?  They do nothing but call or email for money donations and I am fed up with them because I will NOT give $$$ to them at all.   I will give to charity before I give one dime to the GOP.  They have a bad image and I am going to agree with you Nancy on that fact.

4 years ago


a very good read by Anne Coulter and her last paragraph spells it out accurately.

Email from Jim Messina ....
4 years ago

This week, thousands of Americans picked up the phone to help the President prevent a tax hike on middle-class families.
We can't stop now. Republican leadership in the House of Representatives is still refusing to allow a vote on a bill that would prevent 98 percent of American families from paying higher taxes next year.
If your taxes go up by more than $2,000 in a couple weeks, there's only one reason: because a few dozen Republican representatives refuse to ask the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans to pay their fair share.
You can do something about it. Log on to the call tool today and ask fellow supporters who live in Republican districts to call their representatives now:
Voters have already made their voices heard on this issue. As the President said at his first press conference after the election:

"If there was one thing that everybody understood was a big difference between myself and Mr. Romney, it was, when it comes to how we reduce our deficit, I argued for a balanced, responsible approach, and part of that included making sure that the wealthiest Americans pay a little bit more.
"I think every voter out there understood that that was an important debate, and the majority of voters agreed with me ... by the way, more voters agreed with me on this issue than voted for me."

Yet a handful of Republicans in the House of Representatives are still fighting for the same top-down approach that's been tried -- and has failed.
Whether you voted for the President or not, he's fighting to keep taxes low for 98 percent of Americans and 97 percent of small businesses, because he believes we need to grow the economy from the middle out.
He's fighting for you. He's got your back.
We've got to get his, too. Make a few calls right now. One person reaching out to another is how we re-elected Barack Obama. It's how we'll win this fight, too. Just a few minutes of your time will make a difference.
Thanks for doing your part. More soon.
Jim Messina Campaign Manager Obama for America
P.S. -- If you want to make your voice in Congress heard, too, look up your representative here then call the switchboard at 202-224-3121. DonatePaid for by Obama Victory Fund 2012, a joint fundraising committee authorized by Obama for America, the Democratic National Committee, and the Florida, Iowa, Pennsylvania and Virginia State Democratic Parties.

Contributions or gifts to Obama Victory Fund 2012 are not tax deductible.

The first $2,500 from a contributor to Obama Victory Fund 2012 will be allocated to Obama for America, designated for general election debt retirement. The next $30,800 from a contributor will be allocated to the Democratic National Committee. Any additional amount(s) from a contributor will be divided equally among the Florida, Iowa, Pennsylvania, and Virginia State Democratic Party Committees, up to $10,000 per committee and subject to the biennial aggregate limits. A contributor may designate a contribution for a particular participant. This allocation formula may change if following it would result in an excessive contribution or if Obama for America receives sufficient funds to pay its outstanding debts. Contributions will be used in connection with a Federal election, may be spent on any activities of the participants as each committee determines in its sole discretion, and will not be earmarked for any particular candidate.


4 years ago

The difference between the parties is huge here; Messina spells out the situation and asks help so Obama wins and then suggests donations.


The GOP just asks for money and gives no reasons why, not one statement about what they are working on and it is INDIFFERENCE. 


The democrats will continue to win until the republicans learn how to play for the people they suppossedly represent. 

4 years ago

When BOTH parties consistantly vote together in numbers great enough to pass thousands of illegal legislations and borrow $16 TRILLION, any 'differences' mean nothing if the OUTCOME is not different.  It NEVER is!  We STILL bomb other countries and kill their children by the thousands.  The state still kidnaps people and throws them in jail for victimless crimes. While the GOP mostly pays lip service to lower taxes, it seems 9 out 10 times will go along with raising taxes ('somewhere' - doesn't have to be 'income'. 'Bailouts' and debt is a tax. A tax is a tax and it all comes out of our wallets), increased spending - and piling on MORE debt. (There are bout 5 Republicans in Congress who are fiscally responsible.  I don't think there is ANY Dems who can say the same, but correct me if I'm wrong.)

The only 'differences' we are seeing or experiencing between the two is their rhetoric.  The end results are always the same: We get screwed out of life, liberty, and prosperity - and they get more wealth (personal) and power.  How is that a meaningful difference?

4 years ago

there is NO differences in the end, not with the current politicians who run from both parties.

the dems openly embrace huge govt. with more spending and debt and higher taxes while the GOP pretends.  there needs to be change because this is the path to destruction.  

4 years ago

I am begining to notice a trend in this country.  American voters are more willing to vote in republican governors because they prefer the conservative principles on a state level but not vote for the GOP in the senate.  They do not like the GOP on social and moral issues which are far too the right.


However, in states they prefer a republican to govern the state because they handle the economy better.  Eventually, people will wake up and realize they need a president who can handle the economy as well.  We do not need a president who runs and manipulates the electorate only on social, moral issues.    The country is in deep trouble.

The democrats dig the hole deeper.

The republicans want to tighten the fiscal wreck.

Right now, I think people better be aware that the economic downfall will destroy the very foundations of this country.   

4 years ago
The GOP collaborated with the Democrat party. In exchange for more military spending they agreed to more domestic spending. All the spending was approved by those that pull their strings as it created debt, which required more deficits that the real rulers of the country  got richer from.
4 years ago

Both parties DEPEND on "big government" to prop up their handlers; banksters chief among them at the highest levels. So it doesn't matter what the party script is, actions prove otherwise. What's really upsetting is that the VOTERS are STILL SO damned slow on the uptake!

4 years ago

So, is this another phoney dance going on right now?  Are you privey to the negotiations ... if there are any at all?


Frankly ... I do see a big difference in teh parties ...


Democrats believe in social security and medicare and want it secure and they hated GWB when he wanted to privatize it ...


I am going to put something up I wrote to someone in an email which explains why democratic presidents win and republicans don't.

4 years ago

Sheila, we are ALL "privy" to the RESULTS of their "negotiations." Jezus.

The REAL Differences in Democrats vs. Republicans
4 years ago

I am getting many emails to contact my reps in Wash.DC  saying not to cut medicare, soc.sec. and not allow them to be cut.

Many people believe this and they mistrust the republicans.  GWB tried to privatize soc.sec.  and in general, the people have a great deal of mistrust with the republicans.  This is why they lose the senate and presidency. 

I actually do NOT think they can win those seats until the people feel comfortable with their platforms.  They see the republicans as wanting to help the wealthy with their taxes and screw everyone else.  This is the problem and this is the message that the democrats spread successfully.  Until, they can gain the peoples' trust on these things, they will continue to lose. 

They do not reach out to the people either.  The democrats reach out constantly and they use the internet  daily.  They have their projected plans in place and reach out all the time.

You may not agree with them; but they are on top of this and the GOP is not.

All I get from the GOP is phone calls asking for money.

NO money to any of these people ever again... I give to charities only...  a waste of my hard earned cash and it will NEVER happen again.

4 years ago

Since 1900 there have been 8 Democrat Presidents v. 12 Republican Presidents.

4 years ago
  • The problem is not the wealthy. People that innovate, work hard and supply goods and services, or provide capital for real investment should be better off than those that don't. They make us all better off. If they are demonized and punished for success, they will create less wealth and we will all be poorer.
  • Under progressive ideology there is an attempt to make us all more equal. It doesn't work. Social justice and egalitarianism ends up taking from some to give to others. That is not "just" for the people that are having their property expropriated. And the fact is that most people would rather do something else if most of the top end of their income is taken. They will be less creative, innovative and hard working. That, in turn, will make us all less well off.
  • There is a class that I think are indeed parasitical. Those are the ones that produce very little and get do well from gaming the system. That includes the politically connected, special interests, and especially those that speculate in the financial services area based on government and Federal Reserve interventions in the monetary system and the economy. That bunch used to be a drag on our economy. Now they are becoming the death of our economy. Here's the thing: these people couldn't game the system unless the system was rigged. Many Americans sense something is terribly wrong. They sense that there those among us that are wealthy, not because they are productive, but because they are "connected".
  • The media does everything it can to obfuscate those that are beneficiaries of the rigged system. The last thing they want is for the general public to understand that they are victims of massive misinformation. That's because the media is itself a beneficiary. They are taken care of by the connected. So, the media perpetuates the fraud of the "sides". They divide the population by using fear and envy, The gamesters In fact the "sides" are controlled by those that are gaming the system for their own benefit. The parasites are, in fact, running the system.
  • The political/economic parasites are quite good at hiding themselves. They camouflage themselves in various ways. The wealthy financial ones often feign concern for the public, For example they may advocate for more taxes on the rich. In theory that would effect them. In reality, they are making an investment in something they already control: government. Make no mistake, they expect a return on that investment. And note that, once again, this does not produce real wealth or prosperity. Note also that they will seek a way to make others pay for it. Those within the rich that actually produce wealth will be extracted. Those that game the system will create a way not to pay.
  • There are gamesters in a other socio-economic groups. Many, like their financial elite counterparts, they hide themselves within those that are productive. They seek to advance themselves with government programs and regulations that they run or that they can take advantage of. As the costs of these things go up, as evidenced by taxes and price increases, these people are able to .exempt themselves with pay and benefits that the general public is unable to match...... Many states, for example, exempt pensions from government workers but private pensions, returns on savings etc are fully taxed. Likewise, the costs of things like health care and other government policies this group clamored for are covered or subsidized even in retirement. So this group has successfully gamed the system.
  • As the economic parasites take more, the economy weakens. This will not stop them. They will continue to take and give little back little until the host (us) stops it or they kill the host.
4 years ago

The majority of people today are becoming more democratic and less and less are tea baggers.  the tea baggers are a set mindframe (Thank God) ....


This is how the republicans are seen and voters don't want the GOP in charge!

We'll see who the dems nominate in 2016 vs. the gop.

4 years ago

The majority of people today are becoming more democratic

Is that supposed to be good news?  You think majority/mob rule is a good thing? If so, how's that supposed to work with the Constitution and the right to INDIVIDUAL freedom/liberty? It doesn't work. We are in the crapper and the banksters have their hand on the flush handle because our Constitution has been largely IGNORED, the Constitution that PROTECTS us from "Democracy."

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