Maybe it’s because he’s a former history professor, or maybe it’s because he knows his candidate. Either way, Newt Gingrich’s comment to the New York Times today that Donald Trump is at least as mentally stable as President Andrew Jackson feels refreshingly honest in the world of political flacking. This is his answer in response to the question of whether Trump is psychologically fit for the Oval Office:
“Sure. I mean, he is at least as reliable as Andrew Jackson, who was one of the most decisive presidents in American history,” Gingrich continued. “Nobody would have predicted Abraham Lincoln’s capabilities before he became president, and most people didn’t believe him while he was president.”
Yes, Jackson has long been considered a great president (though probably less every year as he became the living symbol of the mistreatment of Native Americans that is no longer shrugged off as it once was). My own grandfather and an uncle and cousin were all named after him.
But as a serial duelist and someone who became completely unhinged at any insult to his or his country’s perceived honor, Old Hickory might not have been considered well suited to the presidency in an era of complicated, real-time diplomacy — much less nuclear weapons.
Indeed, what is known as the “Jacksonian tradition” in U.S. foreign policy is the highly anachronistic belief that America should remain disengaged with other countries unless they provoke Uncle Sam and hence earn total annihilation. Trump has already been identified with that tradition by a number of experts who observe in him a “deep repugnance” toward diplomacy, alliances, or the limited use of military power. It is not a compliment.