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Trump meets history twin Andrew (not Jackson)

Jamie Stiehm on

WASHINGTON -- Donald Trump boastfully likens himself to Andrew Jackson in the American pantheon of presidents, but he's swaggering, scowling Andrew Johnson all over again.

They are historical doppelgangers, or twins.

Jackson, a victorious general and populist president, was made of sterner stuff than Trump. Johnson was nobody's hero.

Johnson was president for three years in the ashes of the Civil War, and he only made the wounds worse. In three years, Trump has brought the nation to the brink of a bitter civil war, without arms, but just as divided along much the same lines.

I see it now clearly, as the Senate impeachment trial of Trump opens. My seat in the press gallery overlooks the solemn spectacle, bringing me straight back to 1868. Johnson was on trial then, in the same chamber. The Senate spared him removal by a single vote. As a senator, John F. Kennedy made that vote famous in his "Profiles in Courage."

In the present tense -- and tense it is in there -- the lead House manager, Adam Schiff, D-Calif., declared in front of 100 senators that Trump tried to "blackmail a foreign leader to help him win an election." Further, he said, the House articles of impeachment are "the most serious ever charged against a president."

 

The battle lines are drawn in the Senate. The divide between Republicans and Democrats is etched on the floor, like a jagged canyon, and only a brave few dare to cross over.

History rhymes. Trump's the living image of the irascible tailor from Tennessee. Johnson was Abraham Lincoln's vice president, and so became president in the spring of 1865, when Lincoln was murdered and the Civil War came to a close.

The choice of Johnson, a Southern senator, was Lincoln's most tragic mistake. The Tennessean showed up roaring drunk to the Lincoln's second inaugural in 1865, but that was the least of his sins. It was a harbinger of what was to come.

Obviously, Lincoln did not live to see Johnson try to undo his magnificent legacy, but that's just what happened. As awful as it seems for Lincoln's successor, Johnson was a white supremacist. He aimed to restore the Old South's social order by granting Confederate officers and political leaders old powers of place.

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Copyright 2020 Creators Syndicate, Inc.
 

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