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.
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.
He also said that Andrew Jackson could have prevented the Civil War:
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)
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)
Abraham Lincoln: Trump has evoked Lincoln in discussions of everything from the history of his party to the importance of overcoming divisions.
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.
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)
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.
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)
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)
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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