The Administration

Trump, after your ‘Civil War’ comments, crack a book


In an interview over the weekend with Salena Zito of the Washington Examiner, Donald Trump prattled inquisitively about why there had been a Civil War.  

According to Zito on a CNN appearance, Trump had been looking at a portrait of the seventh president, Andrew Jackson, stating that “had Andrew Jackson been a little later,” and if he had been president of the United States during the Civil War, there may not have been a war.  Trump lamented that since Jackson “saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War” and was so concerned about it, he could have prevented the Civil War if he had been president.  

Andrew Jackson was not alive during the Civil War.

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt.”  

{mosads}How apropos that this famous and very fitting quote was likely used by the Abraham Lincoln, the president who actually was the commander-in-chief of the United States when the Civil War happened.  You gotta love irony.  The 45th president’s recent off-the-wall musings proved the wisdom of the quote from the 16th president himself.  


My advice to Donald Trump is simply to turn off the cable news shows and crack a book.  

We know he doesn’t like reading, but someone should tell him there are audiobooks now available as well.  

This is not meant to make fun of or demean the president.  It would be too easy if that were the goal.  

This is meant to underscore just how important it is for the leader of the free world to be a bit more curious about the world around him, about its history, about facts, about truth, about learning, about surrounding yourself with people who are subject matter experts, who know how to govern, who understand public policy, who have experience in politics, and to become perhaps a bit more erudite in the issues you are trying to change for the American people.

Trump’s ignorance in history is alarming not only in and of itself, but more so because it betrays an ignorance in most things having to do with running the country.  We have all heard just how incurious he is about the specifics of issues, about the nitty gritty on legislative proposals and policies.  That is not even the worst of it.

We have had other presidents who did not show a high-level of intellectual rigor.  But they surrounded themselves with a team who did and who could inform their boss of the effects of what they were trying to do, how it would impact real people, and at the very least, ensure the president knew what was in hallmark legislation when the president spoke about it publicly.

In another alarming incident over the weekend, Trump was speaking to a journalist about his and the GOP’s health care bill meant to repeal and replace ObamaCare.  He told CBS’s John Dickerson that pre-existing conditions were going to be protected in his new healthcare bill.  That he had mandated it and that there was a clause in the current bill that enshrined that protection.  

There is no mandate in the current bill.  Trump did not seem to know the details of the amendment that would allow states to get a waiver that would allow insurers to charge higher premiums based on a person’s health history.  Or said another way, insurers would now be able to charge much more for people with pre-existing conditions, which is the opposite of what Trump is promising.

That is a far cry from “guaranteeing pre-existing conditions will be covered” which the president said this bill does.  

Trump also seemed confused as to whether or not the current bill would lower premiums for older people after the first version of the bill infamously increased these premiums by thousands of dollars.  Trump insisted that issue was “fixed” but could not give Dickerson any detail as to how.

I am not advocating that every president needs to be a policy wonk like President Obama and President Clinton were (and how the second President Clinton would have been), but there is no denying how their policy chops and their interest in truly understanding the underpinnings of the proposals they lent their names to, helped guide their vision to lead the country and give the American people a better life.  

This is not an elitist point of view.  It is a common-sense one.  And it is one that the majority of the American people had during the election and still have now.  

You should not hire a plumber if your house is on fire.

This is why the majority of the American people did not vote for Trump and why he suffers from the worst approval ratings in history of a president in his first 100 days.  

I was hoping Trump’s recent expression of what many said could be seen as approaching humility — when Trump mused that this job is much harder than he thought it would be and certainly much harder than his old job — could be the start of Trump’s realization that he is in over his head and he’d better start taking crash courses in how to govern effectively.

But when he blurts things out like “why was there a Civil War,” my hopes are dashed and I know Trump will always be Trump.

And thanks to the wisdom of the 16th president, we know what Trump proves he is every time he opens his mouth.  

Maria Cardona is a principal at the Dewey Square Group, a Democratic strategist and a CNN/CNN Español political commentator. Follower her on Twitter @MariaTCardona.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

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