Historians and pundits came out in droves decrying President Trump’s recent claim that Andrew Jackson could have negotiated a peaceful resolution to the Civil War. Infusing their alarm was Trump’s clumsy chronology connecting Jackson to the Civil War and his optimism that the war could have been averted.
This is what Trump said:
…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?In unison critics concluded that Trump is historically illiterate, positively ignorant, and yes, of course, hopelessly racist. Historians Thomas Foster and Margaret Storey of DePaul University illustrate these type reactions. “One could dismiss this as simple (if shocking) illiteracy. But historical illiteracy is not a joke, and we dismiss it at our peril. …Our president … wields his ignorance like a weapon.” Moreover, Trump only uses history to further his denial “that slavery was at the core of the Civil War.” For good measure they dish out the ultimate insult, connecting Trump with those who “deny other historical atrocities, including the Holocaust.” If this is how these historians draw evidence from sources, I am not impressed.
There is nothing in Trump’s statement that unequivocally indicates he did not understand the chronology of events. In fact, his statement shows he did understand. He stated that “had Andrew Jackson been a little later, you wouldn’t have had the Civil War.” Trump clearly understands that Jackson and the war were not parallel in time. Granted, his wording is fuzzy, something that can easily happen in an on-the-spot interview. But for so many to respond in a condescending way, says more to me about their own trigger-happy arrogance than about Trump’s ignorance.
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