Monday, May 01, 2017


So, as you probably know, this happened:
President Trump during an interview that airs Monday questioned why the country had a Civil War and suggested former President Andrew Jackson could have prevented it had he served later.

"I mean had Andrew Jackson been a little bit later you wouldn't have had the Civil War. He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart," Trump said during an interview with the Washington Examiner's Salena Zito.

"He was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War, he said, 'There's no reason for this.'"

Jackson, the nation's seventh president, died in 1845. The Civil War began in 1861.

The president further questioned why the country could not have solved the Civil War.

"People don't realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why?" Trump said....

"People don't ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?"
I don't think Trump is literally asking what issues led to the Civil War. He may know, although it's quite possible that he doesn't. He may have picked up a no-it-wasn't-slavery alternate narrative from tutors such as Steve Bannon and Newt Gingrich. But I don't think that's what he's talking about here.

I think he's been told many times (especially by Bannon and Gingrich) that he's the modern Andrew Jackson. He knows that Jackson lived ... er, sometime back then, within a few decades of Lincoln, so he assumes that Jackson was alive for the Civil War. (Maybe, as Ed Kilgore suggests, Trump's cram sessions got around to the 1830s Nullification Crisis, in which Jackson threatened South Carolina with military action over its threat not to enforce federal tariffs, and Trump thought the crisis happened much later.)

But I think what Trump took away from his lessons about Jackson was much simpler: Everyone says Jackson was like me. What am I like? If you had to describe me in one sentence, what would you say? That I'm a great dealmaker. That I'm one of the greatest dealmakers who ever lived. That I'm going to be the best president ever, because I'm the best dealmaker. So if Andrew Jackson was so much like me, I bet he was a helluva dealmaker, too -- not as good as me, but close.

When Trump asks, "why was there the Civil War?," I assume he means not "what led to the Civil War?" but "why wasn't there a guy like me in the White House preventing war through terrific dealmaking -- the best dealmaking?"

Trump is so obsessed with dealmaking prowess that he evokes it elsewhere in the Zito interview:
"So when I met [Chinese president Xi Jinping] at Mar-a-Lago, which is a dealmakers paradise, and we sat in that living room, in these big beautiful chairs, and we sat there, it was supposed to be a 10-minute one-on-one, then we go into a breakout room where we have 40 people — 40 people, you know, 40 each — and that was going to be the whole day." ...

"So we sat for 10 minutes, but the 10 minutes turned out to be three hours."

The same thing happened the next day. "And, so, now we have a real relationship. I spoke to him again two days ago. He is a great guy...."
(Emphasis added.)

So what did the great dealmaker get out of his conversation with Xi in his "dealmakers paradise"? Trump isn't declaring China a currency manipulator. Trump isn't reconsidering the one-China policy. And in return, Trump got ... what exactly? Possible cooperation on North Korea, which would have happened anyway?

But Trump's ego requires him to believe he does the best deals -- and therefore Andrew Jackson would have, too.


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