Trump Tried Clarifying His Civil War Comments & It’s Totally Not Working
wiAfter a the Internet spent the day laughing at his expense over seemingly anachronistic comments about President Andrew Jackson and the Civil War, President Trump tweeted that Jackson "saw it coming" and "would never have let [the war] happen!" The comments came after an interview with SiriusXM Politics on Monday morning where Trump wondered why the civil war happened and why Jackson, a slave owner who died prior to the war in 1845, might have "worked out" the issues related to the war and prevented it.
Glib Twitter critics started up a hashtag (
#TrumpTeachesHistory) mocking POTUS for what appeared to be an incredibly clumsy timeline error. And throughout the day, historians indicated that Trump's question has actually been posed (and, to many, answered) pretty often since the war. As it turns out, Jackson wanted to maintain the union during his presidency and held federal law in high regard. However, the seventh president wasn't particularly interested in challenging slavery at the time. And it's concerning that Trump wouldn't have acknowledged that glaring fact.
Nonetheless, the president — who also hung a portrait of Jackson in his office — seemed determined to restate his opinion about his presidential fave and try to correct what appeared earlier to be a timeline gaffe.
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
Trump's initial comments in the Sirius XM interview confused listeners when he said Jackson "was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War. He said, ''there's no reason for this.'" However, Trump's tweet retroactively confirms that he meant to say that he believed Jackson "saw [the war] coming" and that he might've prevented it.
Even so, there's still no indication that Jackson would've been able (or willing) to address the real issues between the north and south over the institution of slavery. As Steve Inskeep, NPR Morning Edition host and author of Jacksonland: President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee Chief John Ross, and a Great American Land Grab,noted in a thread on Twitter Monday morning: "This much is true: Jackson avoided possible civil war in the 1830's with careful, calibrated threats [and] compromises. Great achievement. But Jackson didn’t question the fundamental issue, slavery. He owned slaves [and] allowed US mail to be censored of anti-slavery messages."
Civil War came in 1861 as North and South faced their difference over slavery; Confederates called "equality of the races" an "error." 3/3— Steve Inskeep (@NPRinskeep) May 1, 2017
While it's never fun to be Wrong On The Internet™, and less-so when you have a considerable block dedicated to trolling your every move, Trump would have a particularly bruised ego for being wrong about Jackson — since he's made him out to be a bit of a patron president for his administration.
In addition to hanging Jackson's portrait in his office, Trump famously said he was "trying to get started" on a book about Jackson earlier this year, only to be interrupted by various presidential emergencies. Meanwhile Trump's surrogates have hyped up comparisons of his populist leadership and campaigning style to Jackson since before he was elected. Steve Bannon, Newt Gingrich, and Rudy Giuliani each praised Trump as a modern day follow-up to Jackson as the answer to a populist, anti-establishment, straight-talker's prayers. (Notably, they never seemed to acknowledge any of the problematic, genocidal, or racist parts of Jackson's history.) Even in Monday's aforementioned SiriusXM interview, Trump compared his 2016 election performance to Jackson's win in 1828.
While Trump's decision to tweet out a defense of his much-criticized comments is par for course in his administration, doubling down on "alternative facts" against Jackson-scholars and history nerds may prove to be imprudent for someone who revels in these presidential comparisons.