Login

Nobody knows the troubles Trump’s seen

‘We accomplished more in the first two and a half years of a presidency and under circumstances that no president has had to deal with before.”

These words were actually spoken by Donald Trump before a cheering throng of believers as he officially opened his reelection campaign in Florida on June 18.

“Under circumstances that no president has had to deal with before?”  Really?

Upon my first reading of this preposterous claim, I thought Donny Trump’s bone spurs were probably acting up the week his high school American history class learned about the Civil War and President Lincoln.

But no. In an interview with George Stephanopoulos a few days before the campaign rally, he acknowledged knowing about Lincoln, saying, “Abraham Lincoln was treated supposedly very badly but nobody’s been treated badly like me.” Well, James Garfield, William McKinley and John Kennedy might have been. (The old bone spurs might have caused him to miss the class about Garfield and McKinley but Trump was 27 when Kennedy was assassinated.)

 

Lincoln is probably the first president most of us would think of as facing rather difficult circumstances from his inaugural on, given the secession of all those Southern states, the firing on Fort Sumter, the Civil War and all that.

Or Franklin D. Roosevelt might have quickly come to mind. Inaugurated on March 4, 1933, in what would be the worst year of the Great Depression, he had to close all the banks immediately to keep the citizenry from storming them and taking all their money out.

That was the start of FDR’s celebrated first 100 Days, not two and a half years, when he managed to pass more meaningful, history-making laws than Donald Trump ever imagined.  By Trump‘s two and a half year mark, Roosevelt had put more than 20 million people back to work through the Federal Emergency Relief Act, the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps. And he still had time to pass the Social Security Act.

 

And if you want a real circumstance no president had ever had to deal with before in his first days in office, we have Harry Truman. Within hours of his inauguration upon Roosevelt’s death, Truman was told that the United States had developed a horrific weapon that he would have to decide to use twice during his first weeks in office. Nothing comparable would happen to a president until George W. Bush faced the horrors of 9/11 in his first year as president.

Also consider Dwight Eisenhower.  If all he did in his first two and a half years was to keep a campaign promise to go to Korea and end the war there, he’s ahead of Trump. But Eisenhower, the last of the moderate Republicans, also raised the minimum wage by a third, created the Department of Health, Education and Welfare and expanded Social Security while securing the Korean War armistice.

Lyndon Johnson’s first years were nearly on a par with Roosevelt’s. In 1964-65, all Johnson did was pass the first of eight environmental protection laws, Medicare and Medicaid, Food Stamps and create PBS and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Even though he was shot and nearly killed in his second month as president, Ronald Reagan had a productive first term. In his first two years as president, Reagan signed a tax cut bill and appointed the first woman, Sandra Day O’Connor, to the Supreme Court. He negotiated limitations on missiles with the Soviet Union after lifting an embargo on grain imposed by Jimmy Carter. And he fired 13,000 air traffic controllers for going on an illegal strike.

Bill Clinton had his first major legislative failure in his first two and a half years when his health care reform bill was defeated, but he did pass a tax bill that cut taxes on lower income families and 90 percent of small businesses while reducing the deficit. He also passed the Brady Bill, a major gun control law, and signed the first North American Fair Trade law.

All of these presidents had one more thing in common. None of them ever boasted about accomplishing more in the first two and a half years of their presidencies under circumstances no president has ever had to deal with before.

 

Simsbury, Conn., resident Dick Ahles is a retired journalist. Email him at rahles1@outlook.com.