A Civil War historian responded with dismay and disbelief when asked about President Donald Trump’s latest comments regarding the Civil War, likening the commander-in-chief’s historical understanding to that of a 5th grader’s “or worse.”
In a recent interview, Trump suggested that Andrew Jackson, who passed away nearly two decades before the start of the conflict, could have prevented the war from happening altogether.
Here's Trump's full answer on "swashbuckler" Andrew Jackson and the Civil War: "Why could that one not have been worked out?" pic.twitter.com/Zb8OQaDqyq
— Edward-Isaac Dovere (@IsaacDovere) May 1, 2017
Trump explained that Jackson said at the time, “There’s no reason for this.” Trump also questioned why there was a need for a Civil War at all. “Why could that one not have been worked out?” he asked rhetorically.
The question ignores the years of compromises and struggles in the run-up to the war itself. Yale University historian David Blight explains his shock at the president’s words in a recent interview with Mother Jones.
“All I can say to you is that from day one I have believed that Donald Trump’s greatest threat to our society and to our democracy is not necessarily his authoritarianism, but his essential ignorance — of history, of policy, of political process, of the Constitution,” Blight said. He went on:
Saying that if Jackson had been around we might not have had the Civil War is like saying that one strong, aggressive leader can shape, prevent, move history however he wishes. This is simply 5th grade understanding of history or worse. And this comes from the President of the United States! … Trump’s “learning” of American history must have stopped even before the 5th grade. I wish I could say this is funny and not deeply disturbing. My profession should petition the President to take a one or two month leave of absence, VP Pence steps in for that interim, and Trump goes on a retreat in one of his resorts for forced re-education. It could be a new tradition called the presidential education leave. Or perhaps in New Deal tradition, an “ignorance relief” period. This alone might gain the United States again some confidence and respect around the world.
Blight closes his statement with a sentiment probably shared by many who read Trump’s words this morning: “God help us.”