American History According to President Trump

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The winding down of President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office, a milestone he will reach on Saturday, has provided an occasion for observers to dissect how his presidency compares to past administrations so far. Though the history of his own administration is just beginning to be written, the President — though he has said that he does not read a lot of history books — has frequently turned to just that type of historical comparison, too.

Here’s a sampling from the history of the United States as described by President Trump:

Thomas Jefferson: Trump has turned to the Founding Father to support arguments in favor of rolling back limits on political activity by religious groups and to make a point about the media.

“It was the great Thomas Jefferson who said, “The God who gave us life, gave us liberty.” Jefferson asked, “Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?” Among those freedoms is the right to worship according to our own beliefs. That is why I will get rid of, and totally destroy, the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution.” (Feb. 2, 2017)

Read more: What were Thomas Jefferson’s spiritual beliefs?

“Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln, and many of our greatest Presidents, fought with the media and called them out, oftentimes on their lies. When the media lies to people, I will never, ever, let them get away with it. I will do whatever I can that they don’t get away with it. They have their own agenda, and their agenda is not your agenda. In fact, Thomas Jefferson said, ‘Nothing can [now] be believed which is seen in a newspaper.’ ‘Truth itself,’ he said, ‘becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle.’ That was June 14, my birthday—1807.” (Feb. 18, 2017)

Read more: What Thomas Jefferson said about the importance of a free press

Andrew Jackson: One of the President’s favorite historical figures, Jackson has been referenced frequently — and Trump chose that predecessor’s portrait for the Oval Office.

“[Jackson] was one of our great Presidents…Today, the portrait of this orphan son who rose to the Presidency hangs proudly in the Oval Office, opposite the portrait of another great American, Thomas Jefferson. I brought the Andrew Jackson portrait there. Right behind me, right—boom—over my left shoulder…We must all remember Jackson’s words: that in ‘the planter, the farmer, the mechanic, and the laborer,’ we will find muscle and bone of our country. So true. So true.” (Mar. 15, 2017)

He also said that Andrew Jackson could have prevented the Civil War:

“His wife died. They destroyed his wife and she died. He was a swashbuckler, but when his wife died you know he visited her grave everyday? I visited her grave actually because I was in Tennessee…They love Andrew Jackson in Tennessee…I mean 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 the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?” (May 1, 2017)

Read more: Andrew Jackson’s lessons for President Trump

Henry Clay: The President has used Clay as an example of the long history of politicians trying to protect American industry. “Clay was a fierce advocate for American manufacturing. He wanted it badly, he said, very strongly, free trade,” Trump noted. “He knew all the way back, early 1800s, Clay said that trade must be fair, equal, and reciprocal. Boom.” (Mar. 20, 2017)

Read more: Henry Clay versus Andrew Jackson

Harriet Tubman: “I think Harriet Tubman is fantastic,” Trump said of the Underground Railroad hero, but dismissed replacing Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill as “pure political correctness.” (April 21, 2016) He later also called Tubman “very, very courageous.” (Mar. 29, 2017)

Read more: The case for Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill

Abraham Lincoln: Trump has evoked Lincoln in discussions of everything from the history of his party to the importance of overcoming divisions.

“He was a man who was of great intelligence, which most presidents would be. But he was a man of great intelligence, but he was also a man that did something that was a very vital thing to do at that time. Ten years before or 20 years before, what he was doing would never have even been thought possible. So he did something that was a very important thing to do, and especially at that time.” (April 2, 2016)

“History lesson: There’s a big difference between Hillary Clinton and Abraham Lincoln. For one, his nickname is Honest Abe.” (Oct. 9, 2016)

Read more: Behind Hillary Clinton’s Abraham Lincoln debate moment

“It’s my privilege to be here in Gettysburg hallowed ground where so many lives were given in service to freedom. Amazing place. President Lincoln served at a time of division like we’ve never seen before. It is my hope that we can look at his example to heal the divisions we are living through right now. We are a very divided nation.” (Oct. 22, 2016)

“Great President. Most people don’t even know he was a Republican, right? Does anyone know?…We have to build that up a little more. Let’s take an ad.” (Mar. 21, 2017)

Read more: 5 things President Trump thinks Americans don’t know

Frederick Douglass: “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice,” the President said — prompting pundits to wonder whether Trump thought Douglass, who died in 1895, was still alive. (Feb. 1, 2017)

Susan B. Anthony: Speaking at a Women’s History Month event, the President joked that he was “shocked” that the audience had heard of Anthony, and praised her for dreaming “of a much more equal and fair future” where women had the right to vote and serve in government. “And that’s what’s happening more and more,” he said. “Tough competition out there, I want to tell you.” (Mar. 29, 2017)

World War II: “We won World War II in 3½ years; we ought to be able to modernize our air traffic control system.” (Feb. 9, 2017)

Cold War: Trump has evoked the Cold War as a time of success in American foreign policy.

“America First will be the major and overriding theme of my administration. But to chart our path forward, we must first briefly look back. We have a lot to be proud of. In the 1940s we saved the world. The Greatest Generation beat back the Nazis and the Japanese Imperialists. Then we saved the world again, this time from totalitarian Communism. The Cold War lasted for decades, but we won. Democrats and Republicans working together got Mr. Gorbachev to heed the words of President Reagan when he said: tear down this wall.’ History will not forget what we did. Unfortunately, after the Cold War, our foreign policy veered badly off course. We failed to develop a new vision for a new time. In fact, as time went on, our foreign policy began to make less and less sense.” (April 27, 2016)

The Vietnam War: Trump has called the Vietnam War an “ugly chapter in our history” because “our troops became the victims of harassment and political agendas” — a situation he has likened to the circumstances faced by domestic law-enforcement today. (July 11, 2016)

Read more: Interviews with four key Vietnam-era anti-war activists

NATO: The President said that NATO was an “obsolete” relic of a different time in history in late March. “NATO was done at a time you had the Soviet Union, which was obviously larger, much larger than Russia is today. I’m not saying Russia’s not a threat. But we have other threats. We have the threat of terrorism and NATO doesn’t discuss terrorism, NATO’s not meant for terrorism. NATO doesn’t have the right countries in it for terrorism,” he said. (Mar. 27, 2016) “It’s no longer obsolete,” he said in an April 12 press conference with NATO’s Secretary General.

Read more: The history behind Donald Trump’s meeting with a NATO leader

Dwight D. Eisenhower: Trump praised Eisenhower as a”good president, great president” while suggesting that his stance on immigration was worth emulating: “[Eisenhower] moved 1.5 million illegal immigrants out of this country, moved them just beyond the border. They came back. Moved them again beyond the border, they came back. Didn’t like it. Moved them way south. They never came back.” (Nov. 10, 2015)

Read more: What Donald Trump got right and wrong about the history of deportation

Civil Rights: “Our African-American communities are absolutely in the worst shape they’ve ever been in before. Ever. Ever. Ever,” the President said in late 2016 — drawing criticism from those who pointed out that slavery was not ended in the United States until the Civil War, and that segregation and disenfranchisement persisted for a century more. (Sep. 22, 2016)

Gerald Ford: The 38th President “served this country with honor” and was also “a great athlete,” Trump pointed out. (Mar. 2, 2017)

Jimmy Carter: In his 1987 book The Art of the Deal, Trump noted that Carter became President because, even though he was “poorly qualified” he had the “nerve, the guts, the balls, to ask for something extraordinary.” But later, during President Obama’s second term in office, Trump quipped on Twitter that Carter “is so happy that he is no longer considered the worst President in the history of the United States!” (Sep. 7, 2013)

Ronald Reagan: Another President mentioned in The Art of the Deal, Reagan was assessed by Trump as “so smooth and so effective a performer that he completely won over the American people” in order to get elected. “Only now, nearly seven years later, are people beginning to question whether there’s anything beneath that smile,” Trump wrote in 1987.

Iraq War: Trump called the war “the worst decision ever made in the history of our country” (Feb. 19, 2016) but has also suggested that “we should have kept the oil in Iraq” because “in the old days, when we won a war, to the victor belonged the spoils.” (Aug. 15, 2016)

NAFTA: NAFTA was signed by Bill Clinton and I believe it’s the single worst trade document ever signed in the history of our country and probably in the history of our world.” (Aug. 12, 2016)

Read more: A brief history of NAFTA

Iran Deal: Trump said the Iran deal “will go down in history as one of the worst deals ever negotiated.” (July 21, 2016)

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