Viewers of MSNBC have heard the eminent and well known presidential historians and authors Doris Kearns Goodwin and Michael Beschloss talk about where Trump ranks among other presidents. Their only quandary seems to be whether or not he’s worse than Andrew Johnson, James Buchanan, and a few other of the presidents our country managed to survive.
Last month Goodwin resisted negative hyperbole describing Trump here:“Famed historian agrees Trump acts like a fascist — but she won’t call him that until he blows up Mueller probe.” Goodwin said: “Leadership is what matters and then we can figure out what to label him as things go down the line. We may be reaching that point. If he were to do something with the Mueller investigation and stop it, then clearly we have to talk about the rule of law and dictatorship.”
I think Goodwin and Beschloss are trying to be fair. After all, the Washington Post doesn’t even bother asking who the absolute worst president in history is, as evidenced by the title of this article: “The 10 worst presidents: Besides Trump, whom do scholars scorn the most?”Spoiler alert: Trump “wins” hands down.
Now we have another historian grading Trump’s presidential (lamentably incomplete) tenure.
Walter G. Moss is a professor emeritus of history at Eastern Michigan University and Contributing Editor of HNN. Among his publications are An Age of Progress? Clashing Twentieth-Century Global Forces, various volumes on Russian history, and over 200 essays.
Published yesterday on The History News Network he wrote “Why and How Donald Trump Flunks the Presidential Leadership Test” He writes “Now that the midterm elections are over there will be some reassessments of President Donald Trump. But whatever the verdict on his appeal to supporters or as a campaigner, he remains a failure as the leader of our country.”
He makes his own case but first notes the conclusions of numerous other presidential historians: “After he had completed almost a full year as president, 155 presidential scholars concluded that overall he had earned an ‘F’ grade on their Presidential Greatness Survey. In addition to assigning him a general grade, the scholars also graded him on his legislative accomplishments, communicating with the public, foreign policy leadership, and embodying institutional norms. For the first two areas they gave him a ‘D’; for the last two, an ‘F.’ A slightly larger group of scholars listed him as the worst and most polarizing of our 44 presidents.”
The Moss article is an excellent contribution to the historical record on Trump by those who have made it their life’s work to study American presidents.
Aside from wondering whether the Trump Library edifice (hopefully to be built sooner rather than later) will be covered in gold leaf, I have to wonder that when Trump builds his presidential monument to his greatness whether books by actual non-fake historians will be included along with best sellers by Michael Wolff, Omarosa, and the 27 mental health professionals who said he was a “dangerous case.”
This is how Moss concludes his article: “With the Democrats now in charge of the House of Representatives, Trump may be inclined to demonstrate that his July-2018 words —’I’m different than other [presidents]. I’m a dealmaker. I’ve made deals all my life. I do really well. I make great deals’—are not just hollow rhetoric. But compromising with Democrats and advancing legislation for the common good perhaps implies more humility than he can muster. Plus, other roadblocks to bipartisanship exist. Regarding the chances of Trump becoming a wiser and less polarizing president, the words that most come to mind are those of the poet W. H. Auden, who in a different context once wrote: ‘Is it likely? No.’
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