Quote from “Don’t Know Much About History,” Music & Lyrics By Sam Cooke http://www.songlyrics.com/sam-cooke/don-t-know-much-about-history-lyrics/
James Hohmann writes in the Washington Post:
“THE BIG IDEA: Donald Trump believed he could convince China to pressure North Korea to stop its nuclear activities. Then President Xi Jinping tutored him on the history of the region.
“After listening for 10 minutes, I realized that it’s not so easy,” Trump told the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, recounting the session at Mar-a-Lago. “You know, I felt pretty strongly that they had a tremendous power over North Korea. But it’s not what you would think.”
This comment is funny because, in 2011, Trump claimed that he has read “hundreds of books about China over the decades,” including works by Henry Kissinger, American journalists and Chinese novelists. Looking to do more business with Beijing, he provided a list of 20 books about China to Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, that he said had helped him understand the country, its politics and its people. “I know the Chinese. I’ve made a lot of money with the Chinese. I understand the Chinese mind,” Trump said six years ago. His list had some surprising titles on it, including “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.”
Color me skeptical that Trump has read anything by Amy Chua.
— Even if he has, the fact our president needed an introductory tutorial on Sino-Korean relations to understand how hard it is to contain Pyongyang is just the latest illustration of one of his blind spots: He and his inner-circle have very little sense of history.
— It is a cliché, but there is truth to it: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
Donald Trump makes a dramatic entrance from inside the Lincoln Memorial during a “Make America Great Again” concert the night before his inauguration. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
— Trump has committed several small but memorable faux pas since the inauguration:
He mentioned Abraham Lincoln during a fundraising dinner for the National Republican Congressional Committee last month. “Most people don’t even know he was a Republican,” Trump said. “Does anyone know? Lot of people don’t know that!” (Most likely, every person in the ballroom knew and has attended at least one Lincoln Day dinner.)
On Lincoln’s birthday in February, Trump tweeted out an obviously fake quote from the 16th president: “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years.” He later deleted it.
“Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more, I notice,” he said at a Black History Month event. (Douglass died in 1895.)
“Have you heard of Susan B. Anthony?” he asked at a Women’s History Month reception in March.
In January, Trump said Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) – who is best known for almost getting beaten to death as he marched on Bloody Sunday in Selma – is “all talk, talk, talk – no action or results.” There are things Lewis could be fairly criticized for, but no one who knows anything about the civil rights movement would agree that being “all talk” is one of them.
Donald Trump salutes after laying a wreath at the tomb of Andrew Jackson after touring The Hermitage in Nashville on March 15. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)
— Those four gaffes were tailormade to go viral on social media, but the president has made other comments that perhaps better underscore his lack of depth on U.S. history. Only someone who doesn’t understand the ugly history of the 1930s, for example, could have so wholeheartedly embraced “America First” as a mantra, let alone made it a rallying cry in his inaugural address. The slogan was first popularized by Nazi sympathizers.
— Trump has embraced Andrew Jackson as his political idol, hanging his portrait in the Oval Office and even flying to Nashville on his 250th birthday to lay a wreath on his tomb. In a speech there, he identified with the seventh president because he took on the “arrogant elite.” “Does that sound familiar?” Trump said with a sly smile.
Yet the very next week, in Louisville, the president claimed the mantle of Henry Clay. “Henry Clay believed in what he called the ‘American system,’ and proposed tariffs to protect American industry and finance American infrastructure,” the president said in a long riff. “Like Henry Clay, we want to put our own people to work. … Clay was a fierce advocate for American manufacturing. … He knew all the way back, (in the) early 1800s, Clay said that trade must be fair, equal, and reciprocal. Boom!”
Anyone who has a passing familiarity with 19th century history knows how goofy it is to embrace both Jackson and Clay. “They were absolutely feral enemies,” Fergus Bordewich, a Clay biographer, told Time after Trump’s speech. “They absolutely hated each other. They shared almost no views in common.”
Sean Spicer listens to a reporter’s question during his daily briefing yesterday. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
— Sean Spicer’s cringe-worthy comments this week that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s actions were worse than Adolf Hitler’s suggested a more endemic problem of historical illiteracy in the White House. The press secretary has since apologized for saying that Hitler “was not using the gas on his own people in the same way that Assad is doing.” He also referred to concentration camps as “the Holocaust centers.”
Because Spicer made his comment on the first day of Passover, the observant staff members at the Anti-Defamation League had their phones and televisions off. So they didn’t find out until Wednesday night what had happened. Leaders of the group reached out to the White House yesterday to offer a training session on the Holocaust. “The organization has taught classes on Hitler’s murderous campaign — which exterminated 6 million Jews and millions more LGBT people, Poles, socialists and others — to more than 130,000 law enforcement professionals and 35,000 teachers,” Julie Zauzmer reports. ADL is willing to offer a free session to Spicer or “anyone at the White House who may need to learn more about the Holocaust.” Spicer didn’t respond to an email about whether he’d do it.
— Trump has admitted that he is not intellectually curious. In a moment of candor, he told The Post’s Marc Fisher last summer that he has not read any biographies of presidents. He said he would like to someday but never has time. Then he explained that he does not need to read extensively because he reaches the right decisions “with very little knowledge other than the knowledge I [already] had, plus the words ‘common sense,’ because I have a lot of common sense.” Trump told Marc he is skeptical of experts because they can’t see the forest through the trees and lack his good instincts.
— This is a break with many of his predecessors. Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton all invited elite historians for private dinners at the White House. Each thought deeply about his place in history as he mulled weighty decisions. Bush, who majored in history at Yale, heavily employed historical analogies in his speeches. John F. Kennedy even hired Arthur Schlesinger Jr. to be his in-house historian.
Then-President Obama waits to speak at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service in Johannesburg. (White House Photo by Pete Souza)
— Trump’s very dark world view is one of the ways his lack of historical perspective manifests itself. David Nakamura contrasts how Obama and Trump see the world in a piece for today’s paper:
“Addressing the United Nations last fall, Obama took a moment to highlight for fellow world leaders what he called ‘the most important fact’ about the state of global affairs: Human existence on planet Earth is good — and getting better. War is down, he said, while life expectancy is up. Democracy is on the march, and science has beaten back infectious diseases. A girl in a remote village can download the ‘entirety of human knowledge’ on a smartphone. A person born today, Obama concluded, is more likely to be safer, healthier, wealthier and better-educated — and to see a path to prosperity — than at ‘any time in human history.’”
President Trump does not inhabit this world: “To Trump, the world is ‘a mess,’ as he said during a White House news conference this week. ‘It’s crazy what’s going on,’ Trump said. ‘Whether it’s the Middle East or you look at — no matter where — Ukraine — whatever you look at, it’s got problems, so many problems. Right now, it’s nasty.’”
“President Obama constantly reminded us that our own times are not uniquely oppressive,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian and author at Rice University. “There’s a feeling due to the 24-7 news cycle that everything is a crisis mode, when the fact of the matter is, Americans have it better now than ever before.”
During a town hall-style event with young people in Malaysia in September, Obama blamed the flow of information bombarding news consumers on televisions, computers and smartphones for making it appear “as if the world is falling apart.”“Everybody is shouting and everybody hates each other,” Obama said. “And you get kind of depressed. You think, ‘Goodness, what’s happening?’”
Trump, of course, consumes most of his news from cable television and Twitter.
President Trump is changing his tune on NATO, China’s currency, Syria and many other policies he campaigned on. The Post’s Jenna Johnson looks at why his stances have shifted now that he’s in the White House. (Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)
— Bigger picture: One important reason the new president has flip-flopped so much in recent daysis because he has never grappled deeply or seriously with most issues. Trump has typically staked out whatever position was most politically expedient at that moment and then confidently argued for it, untethered by core convictions beyond a desire to make money, build his brand and win elections.”
Read Hohmann’s entire piece at the above link. Trump is the logical culmination of years of “know-nothingism” by the GOP.