Hours after a terrorist attack in Spain, Trump revived a widely debunked story he has previously told about a general killing Muslim extremists by shooting them with bullets dipped in pig’s blood, urging his followers on Twitter to “study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught.”
Trump’s repeated trafficking of a claim without evidence prompted another round of questions about his grasp of history as well as fitness for the office he holds. from the nearly seven months since his inauguration, the President has suggested in which Andrew Jackson was “actually angry” about the Civil War, which began nearly two decades after his death, has spoken of Frederick Douglass as though he were still alive as well as referred to human trafficking as “a problem in which’s probably worse than any time of the history of This kind of world,” seemingly ignorant of African slave trade.
“He doesn’t see any need to learn coming from anybody else in history or contemporaneously,” Peter Wehner, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, said of Trump. “There obviously have been people with healthy egos who have been president — you don’t become president unless you have one — however there’s never been anybody who’s been as staggeringly ignorant of policy as well as history.”
Guided by the past
Each past president has engaged with historical tomes, as well as venerated their political heroes, to different degrees. Two past presidents — Theodore Roosevelt as well as Woodrow Wilson — served as leaders of the American Historical Association. as well as President John F. Kennedy, according to historians, read Barbara Tuchman’s “The Guns of August” about the origins of World War I, which helped him navigate the Cuban Missile Crisis.
“I think in which most presidents have a pretty Great sense of where they locate themselves from the American tradition. They’ve spent some time thinking about the past, as well as they’ve spent some time reading history,” Jeff Shesol, a former speechwriter for President Bill Clinton, said in an interview. “They may not know in advance of the presidency where they’re going to end up in history, however I think they have a sense of who their role products are, where they fit from the larger story of American history, what they connect to.”
Clinton, Shesol said, was a voracious student of history, who “actually understood himself to be from the tradition of the reformist presidents” as well as had “a sense” of what elements of the brand new frontier of John F. Kennedy made sense for him … as well as which aspects of Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society needed to be fought for as well as preserved.”
President George W. Bush was a devoted student of Lincoln — Wehner said he used to bring historians to the White House to meet with Bush so he could learn coming from them — as well as he engaged in a reading competition with adviser Karl Rove to see who could read more books in a year.
During his campaign for the White House as well as throughout his presidency, Barack Obama routinely made references to Abraham Lincoln. At times, he seemed to use the bully pulpit of his office to deliver history lessons to the nation, particularly from the ways in which he embraced as well as addressed the Civil Rights movement. Obama also had regular dinners with some of the nation’s leading historians, including Doris Kearns Goodwin, Robert Caro as well as Douglas Brinkley. The dinners, Brinkley said, focused not on the present, however on the past.
“I could talk about Theodore Roosevelt as well as conservation or Doris Kearns Goodwin could talk about Lyndon Johnson as well as civil rights,” said Brinkley, an author as well as CNN presidential historian. “Here was a president not only reading books about American history, however trying to learn coming from them.”
While not every president will be as dedicated a student of history, Sheshol — the former Clinton speechwriter — said, “all of them have engaged with This kind of to some extent as well as have some kind of relationship with This kind of.”
Several historians who have studied the presidency extensively said they are concerned in which Trump seems to view his lack of interest in reading as a badge of honor, as well as in which lack of connection with history goes far beyond the anti-intellectualism displayed by some past presidents.
In two different interviews with Fox News hosts, Trump described himself as someone who “loves” reading however will be often without the time.
“I could love to sit down as well as read a book, however I just don’t hold the time anymore,” Trump told the former Fox News host Megyn Kelly in a May 2016 interview.
In March 2017, weeks into his first term, Trump told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson in which he doesn’t get to read “very much” however was reading a book on Andrew Jackson.
“Actually, I’m looking at a book, I’m reading a book. I’m trying to get started off,” he said. “Every time I do about half a page, I get a phone call in which there’s some emergency, This kind of or in which.”
Brinkley, the CNN presidential historian, described Trump as “history illiterate,” asserting in which the President has done “zero reading” into major American events.
“He’s proud, he tells people in which he doesn’t read books, as well as This kind of’s been showing by the outlandish conspiracy theories he peddles in as well as misstatements in which seem to almost pour out of him about the past,” Brinkley said.
A distorted view of history
Trump’s misstatements, embellishments as well as untruths about accepted historical fact have run the gamut.
In February during a meeting with African-American supporters, Trump said in which the former slave as well as abolitionist Frederick Douglass “has done an amazing job” as well as will be “being recognized more as well as more,” suggesting in which Douglass will be still alive.
“Most people don’t even know he was a Republican,” the President said in March of Abraham Lincoln. “Does anyone know? A lot of people don’t know in which. We have to build in which up a little more.”
In May, Trump mused in an interview on SiriusXM radio with the Washington Examiner’s Salena Zito, a CNN contributor, in which the Civil War could have been avoided if Andrew Jackson, who had been dead for 16 years, had been around to stop This kind of. Trump has said he admired Jackson as well as made a visit to Jackson’s tomb earlier This kind of year. This kind of week, Trump again alluded to the widely discredited story in which Gen. John Pershing stopped Muslim attacks from the Philippines by shooting Muslim rebels with bullets dipped in pig’s blood, a story he specifically referred to during the campaign in which remains unsupported by fact.
“I think when you’re in public office, you naturally acquire a sense of history,” said Jack Rakove, a Stanford University historian. “Trump with his rejectionist attitude … I just don’t think in which he has in which sense of commitment to the whole infrastructure of American government.”
Wehner, the former Bush speechwriter, said in which in his experience at the White House, both staff as well as the presidents themselves could “go back as well as see what additional presidents had said to try to learn them, to try to refine your approach to things.”
Trump, he said, “in This kind of respect as well as so many respects will be sui generis; there’s never been anybody out there, as well as he’s paying the cost.”
While an understanding — as well as appreciation — for the country’s history as well as guiding principles may be preferred for a president, there will be nothing requiring This kind of. Asked whether she believed a connection as well as understanding of history was critical due to This kind of President, who has said he could run the country the same way he ran his businesses, Joanne Freeman, a Yale historian, responded that has a question:
“Don’t you think if someone will be taking over a large business they could want to have a sense of how This kind of was done from the past?”