By Kevin Bailey
It is safe to assume that prior to the alt-right anointing Trump as “the new Andrew Jackson”, that Trump himself had no idea who Andrew Jackson was. As his interview with Salena Zito (which she predictably tries to turn into a puff-piece) makes clear, Trump can be easily manipulated by basically empty gestures from other far more intelligent and savvy world leaders.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi is a “good man” who (apparently, in Trump Bizarro World) was just misunderstood by the Obama administration. (It’s actually quite predictable: if a leader had tense relations with the U.S. under President Obama, Trump likes them.) President XI of China, whose country Trump vilified during his ludicrous presidential campaign is now a “good person”, and Trump has adopted Xi’s narrative regarding the Korean Peninsula as his own. While he does give brief head nods to our traditional allies like Great Britain and Germany, he spends far more time gushing over world leaders who are not friends of the United States.
The most illuminating part of the interview, with regards to Trump’s abject ignorance, is a portion the Washington Post highlighted, but that Zito unsurprisingly failed to mention in her fawning sycophantic article. In it, Trump clearly demonstrates an utter cluelessness about the origins of the Civil War, as well as the life of his supposed “hero” Andrew Jackson. Here is the relevant exchange between Zito and Trump
ZITO: That’s right. You were in Tennessee.
TRUMP: And it was amazing. The people of Tennessee are amazing people. They love Andrew Jackson. They love Andrew Jackson in Tennessee.
ZITO: He’s fascinating.
TRUMP: I mean, had Andrew Jackson been a little later, you wouldn’t have had the Civil War. He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart. He was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War. He said, “There’s no reason for this.” People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War — if you think about it, why? People don’t ask that question, but why was there a Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?
Please forgive the colloquial, but there’s a whole lot of stupid to unpack in that brief snippet:
First, there is no historical validity to the first claim Trump makes, which seems to be that if Andrew Jackson had been president in 1861, somehow the Civil War would have been averted. War was coming, whether sooner or later, and the only way to avert it would have been to (A) allow the South to maintain slavery, while adding new slave states to the Union; or (B) simply allow them to secede, effectively cutting the United States in two, severing the Union of the States for good.
Second, and far more concerning (at least from the perspective of people who do not want the President of the United States to be a historical ignoramus) Trump apparently does not know that Jackson was dead over a decade-and-a-half prior to the beginning of the Civil War. Trump, who claims that Andrew Jackson is his favorite president, either (A) doesn’t know that Jackson died in 1845; or (B) doesn’t know that the Civil War started in 1861. It is also quite possible that Trump doesn’t know either thing, and is just talking out his hindquarters. In fact, that is actually the most likely scenario.
Why is his historical ignorance such a grave concern? In my view, it is primarily because it illuminates just how abjectly stupid and malleable Trump is. In the past, we have certainly had presidents that were not intellectual, of course, but this is of a different scope and magnitude altogether. This is the type of ignorance that makes for a more dangerous world. This is the type of ignorance that means we now have a president for whom the last person he talked to and “liked” basically shapes his entire view on whatever subject that was just discussed. This type of ignorance is why Trump goes from railing against China in the campaign, to suddenly viewing President Xi as his new best friend. And in the end, if he is not impeached, it’s this type of ignorance that puts our republic in the gravest danger it has faced since the aforementioned Civil War, about which our current president is completely clueless.