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Presidential Historian Jon Meacham Compares Donald Trump to Andrew Jackson

[photo: Gasper Tringale]

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and presidential historian Jon Meacham is speaking Friday at Cleveland State University as part of the AHA! Festival,

Meacham spoke with ideastream managing producer Joe Frolik, who noted that White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and other commentators have compared Donald Trump to Andrew Jackson, the subject of Meacham's 2009 biography, American Lion. Meacham discussed parallels between two leaders often described as outsiders and populists.

"My sense is that the Trump White House has a very narrow view of Jackson, a sense that his populist temperment was the most important element about him," he said.

While Meacham believes Jackson was a populist there's more to it.

"If you really drill down and look at how Jackson conducted the presidency what you find is someone who was a chess player.  He understood you had to think a couple of moves ahead.  He understood you had to make vices into virtues," he said.

According to Meacham, Jackson also created a public persona to help him politically.

"He appreciated that people believed he was unstable, and he used that to enhance his own negotiating position in many ways," he said. 

Meacham argues that the Trump White House needs to look at a broader portrait of our seventh president.

"If they're going to look back for some kind of guidance, which I think is a good impulse, I hope that they'll see Jackson not simply as a wild man [but] as a pretty astute steward and practitioner of power," he said.

Jon Meacham speaks Friday at 10am at CSU's Student Center for the AHA! Festival on the topic of "The Art of Leadership."

Listen for Joe Frolik's interview with Jon Meacham Monday, June 5 at 1:33pm on 90.3 during Here and Now featuring the Sound of Applause.

Listen to the full interview:




Dave DeOreo is coordinating producer for Ideastream Public Media’s arts and culture team.