The narcissistic Donald Trump likes to think of himself as exceptional in ever way. A column in the New York Times by a historian at Princeton makes the case that Trump is indeed exceptional: based on his first year in office, he is likely the worse president in American history and that the coming year holds only promise for the further debasement of the office of president and the image of America in the world. All of this, of course could have been avoided had the Electoral College fulfilled the Founders' design and refused to certify his election given his unfitness for office. Alas, the Electoral College electors had the spines of jelly fish and no regard for the solemn duty. The nation has suffered ever since. Here are highlights from the column that looks at some of the worse presidents over the course of the nation's history and the conclusion that Trump is likely the worse:
Historians have long looked to a few key criteria in evaluating the beginning of a president’s administration. First and foremost, any new president should execute public duties with a commanding civility and poise befitting the nation’s chief executive, but without appearing aloof or haughty. As George Washington observed at the outset of his presidency in 1789, the president cannot in any way “demean himself in his public character” and must act “in such a manner as to maintain the dignity of office.”
New presidents also try to avoid partisan and factional rancor, and endeavor to unite the country in a great common purpose. In line with their oath of office, they dedicate themselves to safeguarding and even advancing democratic rights and to protecting the nation against foreign enemies. They avoid even the slightest imputation of corruption, of course political but above all financial.
Donald Trump, in each area, has been a colossal failure. The truest measure of his performance comes from comparing his first year not with those of the best — Washington, Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt — but with those of the worst.
What do these bad presidents’ first years tell us about Mr. Trump? Some performed reasonably well at first, only to slide into disaster later. Might Mr. Trump grow in the job, making us forget his rookie-season bumbling? Or should we expect more of the same through 2020?
I expect the latter. Mr. Trump’s first year has been an unremitting parade of disgraces that have demeaned him as well as the dignity of his office, and he has shown that this is exactly how he believes he should govern.
Most important, he is the first president to fail to defend the nation from an attack on our democracy by a hostile foreign power — and to resist the investigation of that attack. He is the first to enrich his private interests, and those of his family, directly and openly.
He is the first president to denounce the press not simply as unfair but as “the enemy of the American people.” He is the first to threaten his defeated political opponent with imprisonment. He is the first to have denigrated friendly countries and allies as well as a whole continent with racist vulgarities.
George Washington warned that the actions of a president “may have great and durable consequences from their having been established at the commencement of a new general government.” If history is any guide — especially in light of the examples closest to his, of Buchanan and Andrew Johnson — Mr. Trump’s first year portends a very unhappy ending.