Trump and Carson: Failing American History Again?

UPDATE: Kevin Levin takes a nine iron to thump Trump.

It is a commonplace observation that a sound knowledge of history can be of use to a person who wants to be president of the United States. Many people also claim that a flawed understanding can do much harm.

And then there’s Donald Trump and Ben Carson, who seem intent on showing that ignorance of history is no barrier to popularity among a certain group of voters.

News comes this week that Mr. Trump is an active Civil War preservationist, although the land he preserved (by turning it into a golf course) happens to have had next to nothing to to with the war other than it oversees the Potomac River. However, Trump has proclaimed that  one can see “The River of Blood” from where he has placed a plaque celebrating his devotion to remembering America’s past (between the 14th and 15th hole).

river of blood
Courtesy New York Times.

Let’s just say that it’s a good thing he has not explored the possibilities of building a casino in the Gettysburg area (as others have). That would result in a different sort of tasteless tower dominating the skyline.

As for Ben Carson, following a lull in his litany of errors, he decided to come back strong on the Sunday news programs by declaring that Thomas Jefferson crafted the Constitution.

James Madison must be fuming. He always has to play second fiddle to the man from Monticello (although Madison did not write the Constitution, either).

It’s not the first time Carson has been charged with having erred on matters pertaining to American history, although it is reasonable to respond that in this case the word “craft” is not quite the same as “compose,” and that it refers to Jefferson’s interpretation of the document — or, according to this commentary, Jefferson’s correspondence with Madison on the document. That’s a more difficult case to make, as Jefferson’s assessment came largely after the document was composed. You can see some of the correspondence during the deliberations here: note that it includes only one letter from Jefferson to Madison during the convention.

I would tell you which Confederate heritage blogger has already come out in favor of Trump, but I’d rather have you guess. She must have forgotten that he’s a Yankee.


9 thoughts on “Trump and Carson: Failing American History Again?

  1. bob carey November 25, 2015 / 2:07 am

    Donald Trump is an obnoxious blowhard. He is Elmer Gantry on steroids trying to fool all of the people all of the time.
    Ben Carson is a brilliant surgeon but he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.
    The Democrats are loving this stuff.
    This was the first time i have read the Jefferson letter to Madison in regards to the Convention, it is very interesting, especially the post script about Congress having a years waiting period between introduction and voting on a proposed law, and how that law would have to stand on its own merits. Imagine how our history would have been changed if Jeffersons’ proposal was included in the Constitution.

    • John Foskett November 25, 2015 / 8:03 am

      I used to think that Trump was simply a self-infatuated carnival barker. Based on the last 10 days or so, I think that he may be a demagogue. These characters surface every so often in US history and they are always, without fail, on the wrong side of history, the D of I, and the Constitution.

  2. Patrick Young November 25, 2015 / 7:41 am

    Trump actually restored the grounds to their 1861 appearance when the course was used for recreation by McClellan during the Trump Potomac Open.

    • bob carey November 25, 2015 / 9:27 am

      The real reason Stuart was late at Gettysburg is that he stopped and played 18 at the golf course. This is true,just ask Donald.

    • Brooks D. Simpson November 25, 2015 / 8:58 am

      I am sure that there were many such minor clashes all over northern Virginia. That’s why I said “next to nothing,” as any careful reader would notice (that remark is not aimed at you).

      • John Foskett November 25, 2015 / 10:42 am

        Craig Swain has a solid post about this at To the Sound of the Guns.

  3. Rob November 25, 2015 / 12:12 pm

    That’s the Trump family crest at the top of the plaque. So subtle.

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