There was something eerily familiar about Thursday evening’s mock press conference of Abraham Lincoln impersonator George Buss taking questions from members of the Springfield broadcast media.


 

There was something eerily familiar about Thursday evening’s mock press conference of Abraham Lincoln impersonator George Buss taking questions from members of the Springfield broadcast media.


 


All of the questions dealt with the Civil War and other issues facing Lincoln in the mid-1860s, but in many instances, the same questions could have been posed to today’s President Bush with a few minor alterations.


 


Terry Martin of the Illinois Channel, for instance, asked Buss about his exit strategy for federal troops from the South, and Michelle Eccles of WTAX radio wanted to know how Buss planned to reunite the country.


 


Buss, wearing a black coat and traditional top hat, did his best to answer the questions as Lincoln might have.


 


“A peaceful reconciliation is what I have planned and what I aim to see carried out in my last term as your president,” Buss said in answer to Eccles’ question.


 


The simulated news conference, in the House chamber of the Old State Capitol State Historic Site, drew a crowd of about 150 people. One of the sponsoring organizations was the Abraham Lincoln Association, which plans to conduct similar events across the state — a prelude to the Lincoln bicentennial celebration in 2009.


 


“It’s a fun way to experience history,” said Robert Lenz, a Bloomington resident who serves as a vice president for the association.


 


The ground rules Thursday were simple. All of the questions had to be posed as if it were April 13, 1865. That was a few days after Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House, and one day before Lincoln’s assassination.


 


Many of the questions dealt with the war and plans for reconstruction, but the panel of reporters also touched on social issues.


 


Elizabeth Wooley from WICS Channel 20 asked Buss about the practice of paying black soldiers less than their white counterparts.


 


Buss answered that he thought their pay eventually would become equal.


 


Before the questioning began, Buss, of Freeport, noted that Lincoln did not conduct formal press conferences. Newspaper reporters would ask him questions at the White House, and they would also send questions to Lincoln’s personal secretaries.


 


Asked about similarities between the situations faced by Lincoln and Bush, Buss said there was a high level of polarization in both administrations due to war.


“(War) is always going to be something that riles the public,” he said.


 


Toward the end of the press conference, Buss was asked what “his” plans were when his presidential term was over.


 


Speaking in character as Lincoln, Buss said he would like to see the Pacific Ocean and travel to the Holy Land. He also talked about returning to Springfield and resuming his law practice.


 


Also on the media panel were Amanda Vinicky, WUIS radio; Jim Leach, WMAY radio; and Jeff Hoffman, WFMB radio.


 


Co-sponsors of the event were the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, the Hilton Garden Inn Springfield, Old State Capitol Chorale and the Illinois State Historical Society.


 


John Reynolds can be reached at (217) 788-1524 or john.reynolds@sj-r.com.