Donald Trump hailed America’s first populist president, laying a wreath at the tomb of Andrew Jackson and waxing lyrical about the similarities between himself and the seventh US president. On the 250th anniversary of Jackson’s birth, Trump visited “Old Hickory’s” Tennessee home on Wednesday, dubbed The Hermitage.
Praising “the very great” Jackson’s willingness to take on “an arrogant elite,” Trump broke away from prepared remarks to exclaim, “Does that sound familiar to you?”
“I wonder why they keep talking about Trump and Jackson, Jackson and Trump. Ooh, I know the feeling Andrew.”
Since coming to office in January, Trump aides have sought to draw comparisons between the bareknuckle Democratic president and Trump. Trump’s top strategist Steve Bannon described his boss’s populist inaugural address “Jacksonian.”
A portrait of Jackson has been introduced to the Oval Office — “right boom! Over my left shoulder,” Trump said –referring to portrait’s position behind the Resolute Desk. Trump played up the comparisons Wednesday.
“Jackson’s (election) victory shook the establishment like an earthquake,” he said, mocking Jackson’s critics who called his victory “mortifying” and “sickening.”
“Oh boy does this sound familiar,” Trump said, describing him as “one of our great presidents.”
Trump even mentioned his admiration for a magnolia tree in the White House garden than was brought from The Hermitage.
“I looked at it actually this morning,” he noted.
Born in the backwoods in 1767, Jackson was orphaned in his early teens. He gained a reputation as a fighter: As a young man he was cut with a saber for refusing to polish a British soldier’s boots and once killed a man in a duel.
“From that day on Andrew Jackson rejected authority that looked down on the common people,” Trump said, also lauding Jackson’s role in defeating the British in New Orleans.
“He was a real general, that one.”
For the White House, comparisons with Jackson help place Trump inside the pantheon of US presidents and within the mainstream of American political history.
Trump’s critics have painted the polarizing mogul as an aberration and his views as antithetical to the American democratic tradition.
But historians say Jackson’s story is more subtle and comparisons with Trump may be misleading.
Although he attempted “cleansing the Augean stable” –while Trump talks of “draining the swamp” in Washington –Jackson was no political outsider.
Before entering the White House, Jackson rose through Tennessee politics, becoming a congressman and a senator before taking up a judgeship and becoming a general.
Jackson’s reputation has been somewhat tarnished in recent years, with criticism focused on his temperament and the forced removal of Native Americans from their land.