Trump Asks Why Civil War Happened, Media Pounces

Comments came as he was professing admiration for Andrew Jackson
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted May 1, 2017 10:37 AM CDT
Trump Asks Why Civil War Happened, Media Pounces
President Donald Trump pauses as he talks to media before signing an Executive Order on the Establishment of Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy at The AMES Companies, Inc., in Harrisburg, Pa., Saturday, April, 29, 2017.    (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

As Day 100 beckoned, President Trump sat for an interview with the Washington Examiner's Salena Zito that ran on Sunday. An exchange between the two about the Civil War apparently didn't make the cut, but it will air on Sirus XM Monday afternoon (this clip has been released), and a bit the president had to say about President Andrew Jackson and the Civil War hasn't been too well received.

  • It all started with a comparison Trump made between his campaign and Andrew Jackson's that ended up going here: "He was a swashbuckler. ... Had Andrew Jackson been a little bit later you wouldn't have had the Civil War. .. He saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War, he said there's no reason for this. People don't realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why? People don't ask that question, but why was there the Civil War, why couldn't that one have been worked out?"

  • The Atlantic is succinct in its response to Trump's "why": slavery. David A. Graham notes that even with his tony education, Trump, like many Americans, may be "ill-served by his education when it comes to the Civil War. Many Americans are still taught, incorrectly, that the war was essentially a conflict over state’s rights, with abolition as a byproduct of the war. This revisionist view flourished after the war, and though gradually being displaced, is common across the country."
  • As far as history goes, the AP points out what most reports on the exchange do: Jackson died in 1845, 16 years before the war's 1861 start. Though Trump rightly points out Jackson would have had to come "later," some are jumping on Trump saying he "saw what was happening."
  • And then there's Jackson himself, whom Slate points out owned 161 slaves and framed abolitionism as a threat to the "safety of our country, commerce, and our revenue." Slate's view is that any alterna-history that saw Jackson averting war would have involved the continuation of slavery.
  • As everyone piles on Jackson, referred to by Trump as having a "big heart," TPM points out he signed an act that paved the way for the Trail of Tears, which led to the deaths of thousands of Native Americans.
  • The Washington Post recalls that just last week Trump said much the same thing about a different conflict, telling Reuters, "There is no reason there's not peace between Israel and the Palestinians." What jumps out at Aaron Blake is that such comments sound like that of a "lefty pacifist," not someone warning of "major, major conflict" with North Korea.
  • It's not the first time a Civil War-era comment of Trump's has been picked apart by the media: The president in February said, "Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more, I notice," leading to an outcry over his use of the present tense.
(Read more Civil War stories.)

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