It is far too early to rate Donald J. Trump vs past presidents. However, we can compare our current leader to his predecessors.
In particular, Donald J. Trump (R-New York) is not as unusual or unique as his critics will have us believe. In fact, there are many similarities between Trump and other presidents.
Interestingly, Trump a lot in common with Democratic favorite John F. Kennedy (D-Massachusetts). Like JFK, Trump is a womanizer and an Ivy-League rich kid who lived most of his life in the shadow of a far more successful father.
Trump vs. JFK
JFK’s dad, Joseph P. Kennedy Sr was one of America’s richest and most prominent businessmen. The elder Kennedy became a millionaire through stock trading by 30, owned a movie studio, and headed the US Securities and Exchange Commission.
The Donald’s father Fred Trump was a successful real estate developer who made a fortune building over 27,000 apartments in New York City. Unlike, Kennedy, Donald tried to emulate his father by trying his hand; mostly unsuccessfully, at a variety of business enterprises before entering politics.
In contrast, Donald Trump avoided military service in Vietnam while JFK volunteered for hazardous duty; PT boats, in World War II. Interestingly, Kennedy could have easily avoided military service because of bad health.
One thing Trump and Kennedy have in common is womanizing and partying. Both Trump and Kennedy are famous womanizers and party animals who lived glamorous lifestyles. On the other hand, Kennedy was something of an intellectual whose only job besides the Navy and journalism was politics.
Trump vs. Teddy Roosevelt
In terms of background, Trump has similarities to two other famous presidents. Like Franklin D. Roosevelt (D-New York) and Theodore Roosevelt (R-New York) Trump is the son of a wealthy New York family.
In addition, like Teddy, Trump is a larger-than-life celebrity who attracts attention and generates controversy everywhere he goes. Theodore Roosevelt was the first celebrity president who cultivated the press to create a national following.
Moreover, Theodore Roosevelt was a master at cultivating resentments; particularly against Big Business, and class warfare. Teddy used class resentment to get votes just as Trump does.
Trump and Teddy
Interestingly, TR promoted a strong nationalism that Trump is trying to revive. However, Trump’s nationalism lacks TR’s ideals of national service. Roosevelt volunteered for the army in the controversial Spanish-American War while Trump probably dodged the Vietnam-era draft.
Unlike Trump, Roosevelt was a staunch environmentalist and champion of conservation. Although, Trump’s personality is abrasive and offensive like Roosevelt’s.
Like Trump, Roosevelt used his celebrity to try and impose his ideals on the nation. However, that ended very badly when TR’s Bull Moose Third Party run in 1912 nearly destroyed the Republican Party and Progressivism. Instead of reforming America, Teddy cleared the way for Woodrow Wilson’s (D-Virginia) election as president by weakening Republican William Howard Taft (R-Ohio).
Trump Vs. FDR
Unlike Trump, FDR was a leftist reformer, and a staunch critic of capitalism and business. However, FDR has a few personality traits in common with Trump.
Like Trump, FDR was a racist with little respect for the Constitutional rights of non-white Americans. Notably, FDR unconstitutionally interned over 100,000 Japanese Americans in February 1942 during World War II. FDR claimed he was acting in the name of national security.
However, later historical research revealed US intelligence agencies had evidence Japanese Americans were no threat to national security before the internment. Yet FDR deliberately ignored those reports, possibly to shift blame for military catastrophes at Pearl Harbor and in the Philippines to Japanese Americans.
Internment was not the first time FDR ignored intelligence, an accusation critics now make against Trump; There is some evidence Franklin Roosevelt ignored warnings about Japanese military threats to Hawaii and the Philippines.
Notably, Roosevelt diverted much of America’s military to face the white German threat from Europe in 1940 and 1941. Even though the Asian Japanese; who had a powerful Navy, were a far greater threat to America in 1941. Thus, FDR let racism cloud his decision making and undermine America’s security.
Finally, like Trump FDR had uncomfortably close relationships with bloodthirsty dictators. Notably FDR flew half around the world during World War II to hang out with one of history’s worst mass murderers Joseph Stalin.
Meanwhile, FDR did not visit Britain and support the British people in their struggle for freedom. Nor could FDR visit American military personnel who were risking their lives in England. Additionally, there have been many charges that members of FDR’s administration were Communists and open admirers of Stalin’s vicious dictatorship.
The President who most Resembles Donald J. Trump
Strangely, the President who most resembles Trump is one of our most obscure; Zachary Taylor (W-Louisiana).
Like Trump, Taylor was an outsider celebrity whom a desperate party turned to attract votes. To elaborate, Taylor was an obscure general who got famous by winning the first few battles in the Mexican War. However, Taylor had little political experience, legend has it he never voted before running for president.
The Whig Party turned to Taylor because they correctly thought he could win, which he did. However, once in office Taylor was troublesome, grumpy, egotistical and loutish.
For instance, Taylor had a habit of writing abrasive and widely published letters that offended many people, McGill University History Professor Gil Troy notes. Thus, Taylor anticipated Trump’s Twitter habit with his letters.
Additionally, like Trump, Taylor tried to appeal directly to voters with public appearances. In a violation of 19th Century political protocol Taylor travelled around the country giving speeches.
Trump and a Destructive President
Taylor was a weird man with contradictory beliefs and behaviors. The general was a ruthless slave owner who owned over a hundred slaves.
Yet, Taylor was also a staunch opponent of slavery’s expansion. Taylor made a secret effort to bring California into the union as a free state and tried to do the same for New Mexico. Thus, Taylor effectively betrayed the South and laid the groundwork for the political crisis that led to Civil War.
Unlike Theodore Roosevelt, Taylor destroyed the Whig Party, he was the last Whig President. Oddly, for all the damage he did; Taylor was a short-lived President he died in 1850 after less than two years in office.
Ironically, Taylor probably died from food poisoning he contracted at a Fourth of July picnic in Washington DC. Thus, Trump’s decision to hold a public Fourth of July celebration is ill-advised.
Only history will tell if Trump will be as destructive as Zachary Taylor. However, the parallels between the two are ominous.
Trump vs. Andy Jackson
Like FDR and Harry S. Truman (D-Missouri), Trump is an admirer of a controversial and larger than life general President Andrew Jackson (D-Tennessee). Additionally, some supporters like former Speaker of the House New Gingrich (R-Georgia) compare Trump to Jackson.
Jackson and Trump have a great deal in common. Jackson, like Trump, was a plutocrat; a wealthy slave owner, who campaigned as a champion of the common man. Likewise, Jackson, like Trump was a master at stirring class and racial prejudices and a relentless critic of the establishment.
Jackson won election by playing to the fears and prejudices of middle and working-class westerners who hated wealthy East Coast merchants. In office, Jackson blew the political order apart by purging aristocratic Jeffersonian Republicans from government positions.
Jackson and Trump
Jackson was definitely a racist who carried out one of the cruelest and most heartless policies in American history Indian removal. Jackson even defied the U.S. Supreme Court to achieve his loathsome goal of an America only for white people and African American slaves.
There are serious differences between Jackson and Trump. Jackson was a self-made man; a veteran political operator who had held many offices, and an authentic war hero responsible for one of the greatest victories in American history.
However, like Trump, critics savagely disparaged Jackson as a barbarian and an ignorant wild man. Additionally, like Trump Jackson endured vicious and ridiculous political attacks.
Critics called Jackson’s wife Rachel a whore; because she was a divorcee; a charge also made against Melania Trump, and Jackson himself a murderer. The attacks were so vicious Jackson blamed them for the death of his beloved Rachel.
For all his flaws, Jackson was a seminal figure; the founder of the Democratic Party and the first democratically elected president. However, Jackson remains a divisive figure whose accomplishments are questionable.
Trump vs. Herbert Hoover
Another President with similarities to Trump is Herbert Hoover (R-California). Like Trump, and Zachary Taylor, Hoover only ran for and won one political office in his life the Presidency.
Hoover, like Trump, was a celebrity businessman who captivated the Republican Party. However, unlike Trump, Hoover was a self-made man a successful mining engineer who made his own fortune. Interestingly, Hoover was a noted humanitarian famous for saving stranded Americans during World War I and organizing famine relief efforts after the war.
However, it is Hoover’s politics that anticipated to Trump’s. Like Trump, Hoover was a firm believer in tariffs. Hoover signed the highly restrictive Smoot Hawley Tariff Act against the advice of dozens of prominent economists in 1930. Many historians blame Smoot Hawley for making the Great Depression so Great.
Trump and Hoover
Hoover was tough on immigration like Trump. Finally, like Trump, Hoover refused to take action against rising income inequality and economic changes. Instead, like Trump, Hoover had a mindless and almost religious faith in capitalism’s ability to solve America’s problems.
That faith probably led to Hoover’s downfall, because he refused to take radical actions to relieve the Great Depression. For example, Hoover opposed direct government aid to the Depression’s victims even when they were starving.
On the other hand, Hoover was a highly ethical man who lived a dull personal life. There was no corruption in the administration and little controversy in Hoover’s personal life. Thus, Hoover one of our dullest presidents has some strange similarities to one of our most colorful; Donald J. Trump.
Trump vs. Clinton
Incredibly, Trump has many similarities to William Jefferson Clinton (D-Arkansas) the husband of his 2016 opponent Hillary R. Clinton (D-New York). Like Bill Clinton, Trump is a womanizer who is dogged by charges of sexual abuse and corruption.
Like Clinton, Trump is a pro-business moderate often wrongly called an extremist by the other side. Additionally, Clinton often played to racial and class prejudices as Trump does. In particular, Clinton aped the Republicans’ racist tough on crime rhetoric, ruthlessly applied the death penalty, and championed welfare cuts.
Another similarity was Clinton’s shameless efforts to portray himself as an ordinary man. Like Trump, Clinton made a point of advertising his love of McDonald’s hamburgers. He jogged to McDonald’s while Trump tweeted pictures of a McDonald’s burger he was eating on his private jet during the 2016 campaign.
Will Trump Share Clinton’s Fate?
Today, many rank-and-file Democrats hate Bill and Hillary. Thus, like Trump, Clinton never ceased being a divisive figure and his two terms led to no lasting gains.
Notably, Democrats lost control of Congress for the first time in two generations under Clinton. Interestingly, Republicans lost the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018, during Trump’s second year in office.
Finally, like Trump; and Richard M. Nixon (R-California), often engaged in personal attacks on opponents. In particular, Clinton’s cold war with Vice President Al Gore Jr. (D-Tennessee) did lasting damage to the Democratic Party.
Though Clinton still lives, he is now an inconsequential figure with little influence in his party. A fate that could await Trump.
There are several other Presidents that Trump resembles; including Nixon, Ulysses S. Grant (R-Illinois), Lyndon Baines Johnson (D-Texas), and Warren G. Harding (R-Ohio). However, I think Taylor is the best comparison to Trump.