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Most commencement speeches are little noted nor long remembered. Still, they’re mostly innocuous, generally cheery, sometimes funny, and patriotic if delivered at a military academy graduation.

Trump Tortures History

Speaking to Coast Guard Academy grads, Donald Trump chose to dish out a hefty-helping of self-pity and he twisted history to boot.

Speaking to Coast Guard Academy grads, Donald Trump chose to dish out a hefty-helping of self-pity and he twisted history to boot.

“Look at the way I’ve been treated lately—especially by the media,” the president moaned. “No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly.”

I’m an historian. I say with dead certainty that Trump is flat wrong.

The press routinely pilloried presidents, starting with portly John Adams, “His Rotundity.” (The press didn’t dare criticize the godlike George Washington.)

Another Republican president’s detractors—many of them in the media—hammered him an ass, blackguard, buffoon, butcher, Caesar imperator, clown, despot, dictator, Federal vandal, fool, royal ape, tactless boor, treason’s masterpiece, tyrant and usurper. 

“He is no more capable of becoming a statesman, nay, even a moderate one, than the braying ass can become a noble lion,” howled a newspaper in his home state. It was gobsmacked at how the guy “should have been selected as the representative man of any party.”

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The paper turned up the wick: “His weak, wishy-washy, namby-pamby efforts, imbecile in matter, disgusting in manner, have made us the laughing stock of the whole world. The European powers will despise us because we have no better material out of which to make a President.”

The scribe sneered that in America’s larger and more sophisticated cities, the small-town rube of a lawyer “could pass for no more than a facetious pettifogger. Take him from his vocation and he loses even these small characteristics and indulges in simple twaddle which would disgrace a well bred school boy."

The object of the Salem, Ill., Advocate’s disaffection was Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln was born in Kentucky. His wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, was from Lexington, where, in March, 1861, the virulently anti-Lincoln Lexington Statesman approvingly reprinted the New Orleans Delta’s take on the newly inaugurated president.

Louisiana had seceded and joined the Confederacy. Nonetheless, the Crescent City sheet claimed to be stunned to see the United States, “that once proud Republic” to which Louisiana had belonged, ”so shamed and debased before the world by the ridiculous, vulgar and pusillanimous antics of the coarse and cowardly demagogue whom a corrupt and crazy faction [the Northern states] has elevated to the chair, once filled by Washington, Jefferson and Jackson.”

According to the Delta, Lincoln’s “silly speeches, his ill-timed jocularity, and his pusillanimous evasion of responsibility, and vulgar pettifoggery, have no parallel in history save for the crazy capers of Caligula, or in the effeminate buffoonery of Henry of Valois.” (Caligula was an infamous and homicidal Roman emperor and Henry was a French king.) 

Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is one of the greatest speeches in American history. Nonetheless, the Chicago Times dismissed the Great Emancipator’s immortal words “as silly flat and dishwatery utterances of the man who has to be pointed out to foreigners as the President of the United States.”

Berry Craig

The Times predicted that “the cheek of every American must tingle with shame” upon reading the address.

Berry Craig