History: My, Don’t You Look Nice

The Trump Effect

Credit: Newsweek

Credit: Newsweek

It would be a rare president, indeed, who, when leaving office, wasn’t at least a bit concerned about their legacy.

Our collective view of past presidents is constantly changing and the line-up, best to worst, can see some swap outs.

A few years ago, Jon Meacham wrote a well received biography of James K. Polk, recasting him as the “get-er-dun prez” and he appears, if only temporarily, from the mist-shrouded past.



And, David McCullough did the same for Harry Truman in 1993 with his biography of the same name, reminding us that Truman, though utterly unprepared, rose to the challenge.


But both ends of the spectrum, the top tier and the bottom, seem to be stable.

James Buchanan and Herbert Hoover are unlikely to move far from the dungeon of presidents past and good luck dislodging George, Abe and Franklin from their aerie perch.



But everybody else is subject to a recalibration based on the latest to leave and the newest to enter the office.

Before even taking the oath of office, Trump has caused such a sudden jolt upward that even Buchanan may be a bit short of breath from the altitude.

It wasn’t all that long-ago that presidential candidates and presidents’-elect were seen and not heard, never straying far from their front porches.

In fact, they were referred to as “front porch campaigns.”

McKinley Front Porch Campaign

McKinley Front Porch Campaign

Well, so much for all that.

Donald Trump has not only left the porch far behind, he remains in full Twitter campaign-attack mode just days before he is set to occupy the Oval Office.

It’s now becoming amply clear that Trump does not view politics as either partisan or bipartisan.

His worldview is winners and losers and the winners are free to heap scorn on, and to disenfranchise the losers.

There’s a problem with that.

Americans expect all presidents, even partisan ones, to employ “big tent” language and to act in a manner which projects the dignity of the office.

Trump’s behavior is all the more odd because he failed to win the popular vote and he has no mandate.

It’s more than likely that Trump is at his high water mark even before taking office.

He’ll be shedding supporters like snow melting from a hot tin roof.

Meanwhile, Herbert Hoover never looked so good.






1 Comment

  • Rhackett says:

    In Jan., 1929 a president with zero experience in elected office or military command is sworn into office with same party majorities in both houses congress. His claim to fame is that he is successful in business (sound familiar?) and promises, “a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.” Less than a year later the stock market crashed causing what we now call the Great Depression. It took almost a decade after Hoover lost his re-election bid for the American economy to recover. The silver lining was that a GOP president wouldn’t see the Oval Office for 20 years. A GOP (Ike) who would get tossed out in a primary today (by the GOP) given how he governed.

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