Donald Trump hailed America’s first populist president Wednesday, 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, 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.’
Jackson first won fame as a military commander in the Battle of New Orleans in 1815, when he led an American force that prevented a much larger British army from seizing the city and threatening the rest of the Louisiana Purchase.
He was elected in 1828 as the right to vote was expanded to all white men, not just property owners, and he brought new voter groups into the fold.
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.
A top Jackson biographer says the comparison of Trump and Jackson is ‘not the cleanest analogy,’ but the seventh president offers the 45th a convenient example of ‘an unconventional presidency trying to accomplish big things.’
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.
There are fundamental differences in the paths they took to the presidency. Trump is a New York real estate mogul who came from wealth. Jackson was born into poverty and rose to become a wealthy lawyer and a national hero after the War of 1812.
But 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.
The Treasury Department recently decided to replace Jackson’s image on the $20 bill with civil rights hero Harriet Tubman.
Since Trump’s inauguration, a portrait of Jackson has been introduced to the Oval Office, and it was hung right behind the Resolute Desk
Trump acknowledged that his political kindred spirit was ‘a flawed and imperfect man’.
Until Trump won the White House, Jackson was also the last president to serve without bringing a family pet to the presidential mansion.
The president’s Nashville rally comes on the heels of a Congressional Budget Office report that says the GOP’s health care plan would leave 14million people without coverage next year and 24 million uninsured by 2026.
The plan is disliked by both far-right conservatives, who want a large-scale repeal as they believe they were promised, and by Democrats, who oppose the loss of coverage for so many.
Following his visit to Jackson’s home, Trump took a dig at presidential campaign rival Hillary Clinton while standing his ground on his immigration ban.
‘The order he blocked was a watered-down version of the first order that was also blocked by another judge and should have never been blocked to start with,’ Trump said, referring to the decision by US District Court Judge Derrick K. Watson of Hawaii.
‘This new order was tailored to the dictates of the 9th Circuit’s, in my opinion, flawed ruling. This was, in the opinion of many, an unprecedented judicial overreach.’
‘The law and constitution give the president the power to suspend immigration when he deems – or she, or she, fortunately not ‘Hillary she’- when he or she deems it to be in the national interest of our country.’
The crowd broke out in raucous cheers when Trump said ‘fortunately not Hillary she’, and the president took a pause from his speech.
As he stepped away from the microphone, the crowd started chanting, ‘Lock her up’.