On Monday, Sirius XM is slated to broadcast an interview between journalist Salena Zito and President Trump. A clip from the show included the following exchange between the President and Zito on — of all things — the Civil War:
TRUMP: [Jackson] was a swashbuckler. But when his wife died, did you know he visited her grave every day? I visited her grave actually, because I was in Tennessee.
ZITO: Oh, that's right. You were in Tennessee.
TRUMP: And it was amazing. The people of Tennessee are amazing people. They love Andrew Jackson. They love Andrew Jackson in Tennessee.
ZITO: Yeah, he's a fascinating ...
TRUMP: 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. And 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?
This is … what’s the word … insane.
Here are five reasons this is crazy.
1. Andrew Jackson Was A Slaveholder. You’re having a bad day when Chelsea Clinton, who cannot string together two intelligible thoughts, faceplants you:
1 word answer: Slavery. Longer: When Andrew Jackson died in 1845 (16 yrs before the Civil War began), he owned 150 men, women and children. https://t.co/Icg6puG2JZ— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) May 1, 2017
Trump bragged about visiting Tennessee. The Hermitage, Jackson’s home, has this statement on its website:
In all reality, slavery was the source of Andrew Jackson’s wealth. The Hermitage was a 1,000 acre, self-sustaining plantation that relied completely on the labor of enslaved African American men, women, and children. They performed the hard labor that produced The Hermitage’s cash crop, cotton. The more land Andrew Jackson accrued, the more slaves he procured to work it. Thus, the Jackson family’s survival was made possible by the profit garnered from the crops worked by the enslaved on a daily basis.
2. Jackson Maintained Slavery’s Reach. Jackson opposed abolitionism, of course, but he also called them “monsters” when they attempted to ship abolitionist literature into the south and tacitly went along with a scheme by southern postmasters to censor the mail. He recommended federal legislation prohibiting shipment of tracts against slavery into the south altogether. His Democratic Party moved against abolishing slavery in Washington, D.C. and federal territories.
3. Everybody Asks Why The Civil War Happened. There are literally hundreds of books on this particular topic, with arguments ranging from economics to slavery. The notion that nobody has thought about the origins of the Civil War is simply asinine.
4. The Civil War Happened Because Of Slavery. The bottom line is that without slavery, the Civil War never would have taken place. Jackson’s actions during the nullification crisis sprang from tariff controversies, not from slavery; Jackson’s precise mode of attack, namely threats to use federal troops to enforce federal law, was mimicked by Abraham Lincoln. The notion that Jackson would have been able to preserve the union if he had taken the anti-slavery position is silly at best.
5. Jackson Died In 1845. It turns out he didn’t have much to say about the Civil War, actually.
Does any of this matter? It doesn’t, really — except in two respects.
First, Trump’s line that the Civil War could have been hammered out with a great dealmaker demonstrates his utter ignorance of politics, and his dedication to his own supposed toughness and dealmaking ability could have an adverse impact on both his legislative agenda and on foreign policy (he said this week there is no reason Israelis and Arabs can’t cut a deal, which is ridiculous).
Second, Trump’s statements and those who rush to defend them, demonstrate who is willing to run interference for any idiotic idea springing from Trump’s head. The most obvious explanation for his words here isn’t a complex reading of American history (if he understood the nullification crisis, perhaps he wouldn’t be so hot on tariffs), but simple ignorance. Pretending that Trump is playing 4D hot yoga chess is asinine, and hurts the credibility of those who do so. Trump is the same person who in the last several months has implied Frederick Douglass is alive, suggested that Korea was once part of historic China, and said that nobody knew how complicated health care could be. Trump can say all of these things and it doesn’t much matter, but it’s hard to grant intellectual credence to those who know better but protest in ALL CAPS that TRUMP IS RIGHT.