Trump Knows He’s No Lincoln. That’s Why He’s Obsessed With Him.Roundup: Historians' Take
tags: Abraham Lincoln, presidential history, Donald Trump
Sidney Blumenthal is the author of All the Powers of Earth 1856-1860, the third of his five-volume biography, The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln, and a former adviser to President Bill Clinton and to Hillary Clinton.
When President Trump ventured out of the White House, where he and the people around him are regularly tested for the coronavirus despite his having thwarted testing on a national level, he took a safely distanced seat near the marble statue of Abraham Lincoln and held forth before helpful Fox News interlocutors on his own mightiness, his infallibility and his grievances. It can safely be assumed that Trump has never read a book on Lincoln, or any other president, but the inescapable looming presence on Sunday triggered his tiresome neediness. “We never had a more beautiful set than this, did we?” he observed. Then he remarked: “They always said Lincoln — nobody got treated worse than Lincoln. I believe I am treated worse.”
Trump’s grandiosity often betrays a bitter and pathetic undercurrent of self-pity. Usually, he plays his victimization as a crowd-pleaser at his rallies, appealing to the shared sense of persecution at the hands of assorted demonic elites, the “lamestream media” and the “deep state.” Lincoln occupies an awkward place in this paranoid firmament.
Trump knows that Lincoln is considered “great.” That has always been a besetting problem. Trump explained that his appearance at the Lincoln Memorial was unique, making it truly “great,” and that the “beautiful set” overshadowed Lincoln, who he conceded was still “great,” though for reasons that went unmentioned. “I don’t think it’s ever been done, what we’re doing tonight, here,” Trump said, “and I think it’s great for the American people to see, this is a great work of art, aside from the fact that that was a great man, this is a great work of art.”
But as “great” as Lincoln might have been, Trump, with his martyr envy, has felt a compulsion to diminish him whenever he raises his name. Even murdered, Lincoln was treated better than Trump. Again, Trump wins.
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