Mo Rocca praises Kentucky, Lincoln

FRANKFORT — Mo Rocca, the pop-culture pundit and commentator on CBS News Sunday Morning, has had his share of odd answers to offbeat questions.

So perhaps 6-year-old Daniel McDonald's answer to Rocca's question — "What kind of games would you have played with Lincoln?" — wasn't entirely unexpected.

"Dice," answered Daniel, who was wearing a Lincolnesque beard and a stovepipe hat.

It was manna from heaven for Rocca, who used it as a platform for a typical riff.

"Dice? You would have gambled with Lincoln?" Rocca said. "Isn't that illegal in Kentucky?"

Rocca and a CBS crew were in Frankfort on Wednesday to record a segment that will air Feb. 15, the Sunday after the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth Feb. 12, 1809, near Hodgenville.

Rocca said the segment will examine the "real love and affection" Americans have for their 16th president.

"To me, it's not so much that he's superhuman, but it's that he's almost extra-human," he told a gathering in the lobby of the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History.

"All the greatest human qualities he has in extra abundance: tenderness, sympathy, even sadness. Everyone describes him as the most tender person they'd ever met, or that he had the saddest eyes they'd ever seen."

Kent Whitworth, executive director of the Kentucky Historical Society, presented Rocca with a certificate designating him as a Kentucky Colonel. Rocca said the honor had already been bestowed upon him when Ernie Fletcher was governor.

"All of my favorite people are from Kentucky," Rocca said. He cited boxer Muhammad Ali, country singer Loretta Lynn, actress Florence Henderson, and, of course, Lincoln.

"If I worked for ABC, I would mention Diane Sawyer," Rocca said.

Earlier, he interviewed students from Frankfort's Second Street School in the Kentucky HistoryMobile, which is taking a Lincoln exhibit around the state. On Thursday it will be at Danville's Constitution Square, and Rocca will be there as well.

Beth McDonald of Frankfort told Rocca that her family has made a point to go to various Lincoln-related sites, including a summer visit to his birthplace.

"You're like Lincoln groupies," Rocca said. "You're the equivalent of Deadheads. Abe's babes."

Then, noting the identical beards and stovepipe hats on Daniel and his 4-year-old brother, Ben, he said, "You've even raised your children to look like Lincoln."

Some years ago, in one of the quirkier man-on-the-street interviews recorded for his video blog, Rocca asked passers-by — with no other context — "Dolly Parton or Abraham Lincoln?"

So Stacey Brothwell, who hosts a Frankfort radio talk show, posed the same question to Rocca. And someone else piggybacked onto the question and asked which would win in a fistfight.

Without missing a beat, Rocca said: "You know, Dolly Parton was raised in the Smokies at a higher altitude, so she probably has more endurance. I don't know how she would do at splitting rails."