President Trump has doubled down on his assertion that President Andrew Jackson could have prevented the Civil War.
“President Andrew Jackson, who died 16 years before the Civil War started, saw it coming and was angry,” Trump tweeted late Monday. “Would never have let it happen!”
In a Sirius XM Radio interview published earlier that day, Trump seemed to suggest that Jackson, a slaveholding plantation owner who died in 1845, could have struck a deal to stop the Civil War, which began in 1861, and that the causes of the bloodiest conflict in the nation’s history had not been thoroughly assessed, addressed or discussed.
“I mean, had Andrew Jackson been a little later, you wouldn’t have had the Civil War,” Trump said. “He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart, and 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, you think about it, why? People don’t ask that question. But why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?”
The comments raised the eyebrows of many historians, who questioned Trump’s understanding of Jackson’s beliefs specifically and American history in general.
“First of all, historians have actually talked about the reasons for the Civil War quite a bit,” said Kevin Kruse, a professor of history at Princeton, in an email to Yahoo News. “Second, there’s an overwhelming consensus among historians that the Civil War came about because of slavery. Simply put, the war came because the Southern states seceded, and they seceded — as they quite clearly said themselves at the time, over and over again — because of slavery.”
“One has to wonder why the 45th president, who has plenty to do, is blithely relitigating what Shelby Foote called ‘the crossroads of our being,’” Jon Meacham, author of “American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House,” wrote in an email to Yahoo News.
On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Tuesday, Meacham said Trump’s remarks are “a projection of the president’s fundamental and enveloping narcissism.”
Meacham said Trump told him a year ago that he thought he himself could have struck a deal to avert the Civil War. Trump has repeatedly compared himself to Jackson.
“The presidency itself enhances your fundamental characteristics,” he added. “It’s very hard once you’re there to change.”
During a panel discussion on CNN Monday night, former Georgia Rep. Jack Kingston, a Republican, defended Trump’s belief that a slaveholder could have prevented the war.
“That doesn’t mean you can’t work for peace,” Kingston argued.
Tara Setmayer, a conservative commentator, wasn’t buying it.
“OK, honestly, this is a nice try,” Setmayer told Kingston. “I’ve been watching Trump supporters trying to candy-coat this, and it was an asinine thing for Donald Trump to say.”
President Andrew Jackson, who died 16 years before the Civil War started, saw it coming and was angry. Would never have let it happen!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 2, 2017
Setmayer said she understands Trump’s “fascination” with Jackson because some observers have compared the two. But she doesn’t understand the need to defend every Trump statement.
“Why can’t you guys just stop and say what the president said was stupid?” she said. “Why do you feel the need to just constantly defend everything this man says? It was a ridiculous statement. I mean, I don’t get it.”
Yahoo News’ Christopher Wilson contributed reporting to this story.
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