Vanity Fair asks top historians to assess Trump

Historians in the News
tags: Trump



This is excerpted from Vanity Fair's "How History Will Judge the Trump Presidency" Donald Trump may be a radical break from the past, but history will have its say. Six scholars of the presidency—A. Scott Berg, Robert Dallek, Jon Meacham, Edmund Morris, Stacy Schiff, and Garry Wills—put the current occupant of the Oval Office into perspective.

THE STRENGTH OF HUMILITY

By Jon Meacham

As interviews go, it wasn’t exactly a model of clarity. In May 2016, on assignment for Time, I called on the putative Republican presidential nominee at Trump Tower to talk about presidential literacy—the core knowledge, including a sense of the history of the office itself, that our greatest presidents have brought to the highest levels. Trump’s mind, however, was fixated on the present and on himself, chiefly polls and the number of Republican rivals he’d knocked off.

FEVER SWAMP

By Stacy Schiff

When it comes to dismissing science as false or the news as fake, when it comes to torching history, America has not traditionally led the world. (Who was it who said, “The truth is the greatest enemy of the state”? Ah, yes: Goebbels.) When it comes to persecution complexes and conspiracy theories, however, our current president taps into a rich, rancid homegrown tradition. To borrow his phrasing, a lot of people have been saying that bad things were happening out there since before America was even America. The Puritans’ howling wilderness included a shadowy fever swamp from the start.

POWERS OF SEPARATION

By Robert Dallek

We are well into the first year of Donald Trump’s term, and the country remains badly divided. An unprecedented low of only 35 percent of the electorate approve of his presidential performance. About 60 percent of those surveyed believe he is falling short of how a new president should behave. Worse yet, unlike earlier presidents, he doesn’t seem to care about winning majority support or may be under the illusion that it already exists. He seems to have talked himself into believing that three to five million illegal votes gave Hillary Clinton a popular majority.

GHOSTS WRITING

By Edmund Morris

Our 26th and 40th presidents have long been absent from the national scene, but they retain a lively (if that’s the right word) interest in current affairs. Their biographer, Edmund Morris, interviewed them recently on the subject of Donald Trump and found them willing to forgo the usual discretion of comment that obtains between former commanders in chief. The discussion took place in Mr. Morris’s study, where both men have long been a ghostly presence. Their words, including expletives, are reproduced verbatim from cards kept on file in this repository. The questions are Mr. Morris’s.


PROFILE IN DISCOURAGEMENT

By A. Scott Berg

Two hundred years ago last March 4, James Monroe became the fifth man, and the last Founding Father, to take the presidential oath of office. He spoke with authority that day of the government’s institutions, knowing how they had held the new nation together during its earliest days of extreme partisan hostilities and later during the War of 1812. Through that conflict, the Star-Spangled Banner yet waved; and the United States (still employing the plural) took its place on the world stage.

THE NIXON QUESTION

By Garry Wills

Sometimes a soaring rate of cockamamieness can leave us clueless about what to make of it and therefore unable to do anything about it.





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