As with so many of his predecessors, President Donald Trump is inclined to recall historical events to better frame his own performance and political agenda. President Barack Obama was said to favor a “team of rivals” in building his Cabinet, a term the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin coined in a book on President Abraham Lincoln and his administration. Republicans have for years channeled — and sought to align themselves with — President Ronald Reagan.
He’s also expressed a fondness for President Andrew Jackson, at one point suggesting that, had Old Hickory come around “a little later, you wouldn’t have had the Civil War.” In early February, at a breakfast to mark the beginning of African-American History Month, he shouted out 19th century abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who died more than 120 years ago, as “an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice.”
The story of Obamacare (and Hillarycare)
Trump: It’s a tough — you know, health care. Look, Hillary Clinton worked eight years in the White House with her husband as president and having majorities and couldn’t get it done. … Obama was in there for eight years and got Obamacare. Hillary Clinton was in there eight years and they never got Hillarycare, whatever they called it at the time. … Obama worked so hard. They had 60 in the Senate. They had big majorities and had the White House. I mean, ended up giving away the state of Nebraska. They owned the state of Nebraska. Right. Gave it away. Their best senator did one of the greatest deals in the history of politics. What happened to him?
Taking about the difficulties facing Republicans trying to unwind Obamacare (the Senate has so far failed to get a simple majority for several different approaches), Trump turned his focus to the setbacks on the way to Obamacare. First he recalls the failed 1993 initiative, spearheaded by Clinton during her first year as first lady. It should be noted that, despite what Trump says here, President Bill Clinton only had majorities in both chambers of Congress for two years. They flipped to the Republicans after the 1994 midterms.
“What happened to him,” by the way, is that Nelson left the Senate after not seeking a third term in 2012.
The greatest speech(!)(?)
Trump: I have had the best reviews on foreign land. So I go to Poland and make a speech. Enemies of mine in the media, enemies of mine are saying it was the greatest speech ever made on foreign soil by a president.
Napoleon’s ups and downs
Trump: (The Paris trip) was beautiful. We toured the museum, we went to Napoleon’s tomb … Well, Napoleon finished a little bit bad. … And his one problem is he didn’t go to Russia that night because he had extracurricular activities, and they froze to death. How many times has Russia been saved by the weather?
Let’s take this one point at a time:
The Nazis and Stalingrad(?)
Trump: Same thing happened to Hitler. Not for that reason, though. Hitler wanted to consolidate. He was all set to walk in. But he wanted to consolidate, and it went and dropped to 35 degrees below zero, and that was the end of that army. … But the Russians have great fighters in the cold. They use the cold to their advantage.
Trump vs. Truman
Trump: I heard that because I said — it could have been a little slip-up in terms of what I said — I meant, for the time in office, five months and couple of weeks, I think I’ve done more than anyone else. They may have taken it as more than anyone else, period. … But I’m talking about for my time. I heard that Harry Truman was first, and then we beat him.
Backstory: Earlier this week, Trump at a White House event claimed, “We’ve signed more bills — and I’m talking about through the legislature — than any president, ever. For a while, Harry Truman had us. And now, I think, we have everybody.”
How Nixon changed the FBI
Trump: And nothing was changed other than Richard Nixon came along. And when Nixon came along [inaudible] was pretty brutal, and out of courtesy, the FBI started reporting to the Department of Justice. But there was nothing official, there was nothing from Congress. There was nothing — anything. But the FBI person really reports directly to the president of the United States, which is interesting. You know, which is interesting. And I think we’re going to have a great new FBI director.
This one is a mystery.