I have often speculated about some extraterrestrial civilization monitoring our broadcasts in the Era of Trump and wondering how in the world there can be two narratives of basic reality, which are diametrically opposed — and that’s the norm. How can you have a culture where one portion of the populace decides to listen to one version of facts, coming from a criminal defendant, and the other monitors empirical reality, like the world markets? How can these two groups of people communicate?

And of course the answer is that we don’t. America is more divided today since at any time since the Civil War. Donald Trump clearly did not like the news of the S&P 500 breaking a world record Wednesday. That rattled his cage something fierce and so he stepped into his darkroom studio and held forth. This is one of his better fire and brimstone offerings. Not only is the American dream died and people can’t have weddings, but he informs us that we “have a tax that nobody talks about and nobody wants to hear about.” Whut?

Right on top of that tirade, posted within minutes, was an infomercial for Trump’s latest golf course. Maybe a licensed mental health care worker can make something of the juxtaposition of the two. What I don’t understand is how you can be screaming bloody murder about how the world is ending one minute, and then segue to a lovely pastoral scene from whence a golf course will spring. Anybody?

Scotland hates Trump, Ireland hates Trump, the Brits hate Trump. They created the famous Trump baby blimp and then began sailing to across the English Channel and the Irish Sea. I haven’t checked Wales but I would be most surprised if they were an exception to hating Trump. Let’s ask Anthony Hopkins. He’s Welsh and I’m sure he’s getting tired of Trump trotting out Hannibal Lecter’s name.

I do so look forward to the debates. The most memorable presidential debates in history have been the Lincoln-Douglas debates. I’m willing to bet that the Biden-Trump escapade will be better. In the Lincoln-Douglas showdown, Stephen Douglas was defending the indefensible, slavery, plus Abraham Lincoln was the better orator. In the Biden-Trump showdown, one man is sane and the other insane, which puts an even more black and white spin onto the proceeding. Meanwhile, scholars have voted once again this spring on who’s the worst president in history and guess what? It’s not Joe Biden, who slid in at a most respectable number fourteen.

“Biden’s most important achievements may be that he rescued the presidency from Trump, resumed a more traditional style of presidential leadership and is gearing up to keep the office out of his predecessor’s hands this fall,” Justin Vaughn and Brandon Rottinghaus, the political scientists behind the survey, wrote in the Los Angeles Times.

Rottinghaus, of the University of Houston, and Vaughn, from Coastal Carolina University, considered responses from 154 scholars, most connected to the American Political Science Association.

Abraham Lincoln, who won the civil war and ended slavery, was ranked first, ahead of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who saw the US through the Great Depression and the second world war. Next came George Washington, the first president, who won independence from Britain, then Teddy Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson and Harry Truman.

Barack Obama, the first Black president, to whom Biden was vice-president between 2009 and 2017, was seventh, up nine places.

Considering drops for Andrew Jackson (ninth in 2015 to 21st now) and Woodrow Wilson (10th to 15th), Rottinghaus and Vaughn noted the impact of campaigns for racial justice.

“Their reputations have consistently suffered in recent years as modern politics lead scholars to assess their early 19th and 20th century presidencies ever more harshly, especially their unacceptable treatment of marginalised people,” the authors wrote.

Jackson owned enslaved people and presided over the genocidal displacement of Native Americans. Wilson oversaw victory in the first world war and helped set up the League of Nations, but was an avowed racist who segregated the federal workforce.

Other major movers included Ulysses S Grant (17th, up from 26th in 2015), whose administration generated significant corruption but whose attempts to enforce post-civil war Reconstruction in southern states, including fighting the Ku Klux Klan, have helped fuel reconsideration.

Grant succeeded Andrew Johnson, Lincoln’s successor and the first president to be impeached. Like Johnson, Lincoln’s predecessor, James Buchanan, who failed to stop the slide to civil war, also sits higher than Trump on Rottinghaus and Vaughn’s list.

Trump is a uniquely divisive figure, his legislative record slim, his refusal to accept defeat by Biden leading to a deadly attack on Congress, and his post-presidential career dogged by 91 criminal charges arising from actions in office or on the campaign trail.

We may never see another Lincoln or Washington but God willing we’ll never see another Trump. Let’s see how he gets through the next couple of days of testimony in the hush money trial before the Freedom Caucus comes to do a photo op next week, thereby further embarrassing the GOP, if that’s possible.

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  1. “The most memorable presidential debates in history have been the Lincoln-Douglas debates.”

    For what it’s worth, the Lincoln-Douglas debates were NOT about the presidency. They were running for US Senate (Douglas was the incumbent Senator and, in the days before the people voted directly for the Senate, they were essentially competing for the support of Illinois legislators; Douglas was returned to the Senate).

    • Maybe I should have phrased that differently. The debates became renowned because they showed the humane way of looking at slavery vs. the indefensible way. It was the rhetoric of the age that was unique. And it must have been mind boggling to hear Douglas opine how slavery was simply fine and the only issue was whether each state voted to keep it. No other problem.

      • Well, it should also be noted that Lincoln, um, “corrected” his anti-slavery rhetoric with decidedly anti-equality rhetoric as well. He actually began his address at the Charleston debate with an adamant statement that he was never in favor of social equality between whites and blacks and was in favor of maintaining the “superior position of the white race.”
        Lincoln also, in these debates, was only opposed to the expansion of slavery (and, remember the text of his own Emancipation Proclamation with its many carve-outs where slavery would not be abolished–including the four slave states which didn’t secede). And opposition to expansion is NOT the same as opposition to the system as a whole.


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