If Abraham Lincoln ran for president today, what sort of attack ads might he encounter? What deceptive advertisements, false claims, and out-of-context quotations might the Illinois Republican face from the likes of Democratic nominee Gen. George B. McClellan and the third-party political groups known as Super PACs?
Using a variety of political-campaign techniques along with parody and humor, FlackCheck.org, a political literacy site of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, has reconceived the bruising 1864 campaign in a video timeline. The ads seek to portray Lincoln as soft on terrorism and McClellan as cowardly – and subject both men to the deceptive approaches familiar in campaign ads today.
The Gettysburg Address, which marks its 150th anniversary on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013, starts the video timeline. Following his address in Gettysburg, Pa., Lincoln comes under attack in an ad for having “even refused to dedicate a battlefield still fresh with the blood of tens of thousands of Union soldiers: ‘We cannot dedicate – we cannot consecrate – we cannot hallow this ground,’ ” he says. As for his resolution that “these dead shall not have died in vain,” the ad asks: “Honestly, Abe: Died in vain?”
The campaign-ad timeline features fictional campaign attacks generated by real events, from the Gettysburg Address to Lincoln’s reelection on Nov. 8, 1864. The dozen ads include several produced by the renowned political consultants Bob Shrum, who worked on the Democratic presidential campaigns of Al Gore and John Kerry, and Mark McKinnon, who worked with Republicans George W. Bush and John McCain.
In addition to the dozen ads on the timeline, FlackCheck.org has produced nearly 30 other ads employing deception, distraction, and out-of-context words that bring to life the characters, legislation, and landmark events of Lincoln’s presidency – with an eerie resonance to anyone who’s followed recent political campaigns. “Where’s the birth certificate, Mr. President?” asks one.
For the complete new release and more information on the video series, click here.