Where I wanted to drink a cup of coffee and watch the sun set…
What Donald Trump does not know about American history continues to make news, and further underscores why he is such a national embarrassment.
Long time readers to this blog are fully aware of my love of history. While I never assert everyone needs to have an in-depth background on all parts of our story, I do strongly contend there needs to be a firm grasp of the themes of our history and a friendliness with the narrative of our time as a republic. That is what I believe each person and voter should have to be a good citizen. But when it comes to a president I want a full and rich grasp of what came before so to steady the current hand of leadership. Call me old-fashioned, but I think my view to be most reasonable.
Which then leads me to the story about Donald Trump visiting Mount Vernon. Today it is being reported that when Trump had a guided tour of Mount Vernon last April with French president Emmanuel Macron, Trump proved to be a simpleton. I call it as I see it.
For the record I was able to visit Mount Vernon two years ago–just about this time of year. It was a thrill that went to my inner core as it resonated so much with what I read and think about concerning the formative days of our nation. I spent several minutes just standing on his lawn in reflective thought looking over the Potomac. I would have so loved to been able to sit with a cup of coffee and watch the sun lower over the home and water while sensing more fully what Washington would have viewed so often. James and I visited on one of those hot days when the humidity was very high, but that suited me just fine so to experience the conditions that often confronted those who lived and worked on this large farm.
I was so moved with this slice of history we brought back a flag which was flown at Mount Vernon. We have only flown it at our home on July 4th. It comes down the evening of that holiday and stored in a special container for the following year.
Trump never once came close to any such observations or sentiments as he visited Mount Vernon. What is worse to know is that he has no curiosity about our national story or the people who made the nation great.
The president’s disinterest in Washington made it tough for tour guide Bradburn to sustain Trump’s interest during a deluxe 45-minute tour of the property which he later described to associates as “truly bizarre.” The Macrons, Bradburn has told several people, were far more knowledgeable about the history of the property than the president.
A former history professor with a PhD, Bradburn “was desperately trying to get [Trump] interested in” Washington’s house, said a source familiar with the visit, so he spoke in terms Trump understands best — telling the president that Washington was an 18th century real-estate titan who had acquired property throughout Virginia and what would come to be known as Washington, D.C.
Trump asked whether Washington was “really rich,” according to a second person familiar with the visit. In fact, Washington was either the wealthiest or among the wealthiest Americans of his time, thanks largely to his mini real estate empire.
“That is what Trump was really the most excited about,” this person said.
If Trump was impressed with Washington’s real estate instincts, he was less taken by Mount Vernon itself, which the first president personally expanded from a modest one-and-a-half story home into an 11,000 square foot mansion. The rooms, Trump said, were too small, the staircases too narrow, and he even spotted some unevenness in the floorboards, according to four sources briefed on his comments. He could have built the place better, he said, and for less money.
America’s 45th president is open about the fact that he doesn’t read much history. Trump said in July 2016 that he had never read a presidential biography — and had no plans to do so. Though he is an avid fan of George Patton, the flashy, tough-talking World War II general, he has shown less interest in learning about his presidential predecessors or about the office he now occupies. Former White House aides say Trump initially did not know the history of the Resolute Desk, which has been used by presidents since Rutherford B. Hayes, though he now enjoys showing it off to visitors to the Oval Office.
Trump’s lack of interest in presidential history, said the historian Jon Meacham, means that he has “basically thrown out the one data set available to him. We don’t have anything else to study. It’s all you got.” It also stands in contrast to the fascination of other presidents with their predecessors. Even former President George W. Bush — not known as a tweedy intellectual — consumed several presidential biographies while in office.