President Obama invoked Abraham Lincoln today in his speech on the economy in Jacksonville, Fla., arguing that the first Republican president favored spending on infrastructure.
“The first Republican president’s a guy from my home state,” Obama said. “He was a pretty good president named Abraham Lincoln.”
Even though the country was engaged in the Civil War, Obama argued, Lincoln did not neglect infrastructure improvements.
“And yet in the middle of [the war], he was still thinking about ‘how do we build that transcontinental railroad? How are we going to widen our canals and our forts so that we can move products all around the country and eventually the world? How do we invest in land-grant colleges so that our workers are now skilled and can get those new jobs? We’re going to invest in the National Science Foundation to make sure that we stay ahead of everybody else when it comes to technology,’” Obama said in his speech at the Jacksonville Port Authority.
The National Science Foundation was not founded until 1950. President Obama was likely referring to the National Academy of Sciences, which was incorporated during Lincoln’s presidency.
“He made those investments, the first Republican president,” Obama maintained. “He didn’t say, ‘well, that’s not the job of government to help do that.’ He wouldn’t have understood that kind of philosophy. ’Cause he understood there’s some things we can only do together. And rebuilding our infrastructure is one of them.”
Obama promised that his focus on helping the economy through infrastructure investment would continue through the rest of his presidency, and challenged Republicans to come up with their own plans.
“I’m laying out my ideas to give the middle class a better shot,” he said, “and if the Republicans don’t agree with me, I want them to lay out their ideas.”
The president contended that his understanding of the GOP’s ideas, repealing Obamacare and slashing budgets for education, research, and infrastructure, did not constitute an economic agenda.