Wednesday, May 3, 2017

What Steve Bannon Isn't Telling Donald Trump About Andrew Jackson

By Robert Wenzel

President Trump is an Andrew Jackson fanboy. This is apparently a new appreciation of Jackson by Trump.

According to  Jon Meacham, an American journalist, and historian, who spoke with Trump last May,  "I talked to Trump in May about history and role models, and Jackson never came up,"

The thinking goes that Jackson has come to Trump's attention by the reckless thinker and Trump adviser Steve Bannon.

"Like Jackson's populism, we're going to build an entirely new political movement," said Bannon,  in an interview last November.

The Daily Beast reports:

[A]ccording to officials in the Trump campaign, presidential transition, and administration speaking to The Daily Beast, Bannon would often discuss Jackson’s historical legacy and image with Trump on and after the campaign trail, and how the two political figures were a lot alike.

“[During the race], Trump would say he had heard this pundit or this person making the comparison, and [Steve] would encourage him and tell him how it was true,” a Trump campaign adviser who requested anonymity to speak freely told The Daily Beast. “It was a way to flatter [Trump], too. Bannon and Trump talked about a lot, but this was the president they had casual [conversations] about the most."

Another senior Team Trump official said that “as the transition was underway, he would encourage [Trump] to play up the comparison,” and that “Trump’s campaign and message was a clear descendant of Jacksonian populism and anti-political elitism.”
"[Bannon] is why Trump keeps equating himself with Andrew Jackson. That is the reason why," the aide added.

According to two sources with knowledge of the matter, Bannon had suggested and had given Trump a “reading list” of articles and biographies on Jackson, and reading material on Jacksonian democracy and populism. Stephen Miller, another top Trump adviser, also recommended and offered related reading material to Trump, a senior Trump administration official said.

Trump apparently is taking Bannon's promotion of  Jackson as a presidential role model seriously.

Trump has hung a portrait of Andrew Jackson in the Oval Office.

Indeed, the likely dyslexic Trump claims he is reading a book about Jackson.

 “Well, you know, I love to read. Actually, I’m looking at a book, I’m reading a book, I’m trying to get started. Every time I do about a half a page, I get a phone call that there’s some emergency, this or that. But we’re going to see the home of Andrew Jackson today in Tennessee and I’m reading a book on Andrew Jackson. I love to read.," he told Tucker Carlson in March.

The trip he referenced was a March 16 trip Trump took to Nashville to lay a wreath at the tomb of  Jackson.

Most curious,  in an interview last week with Salena Zito, a reporter for The Washington Examiner, that aired Monday on Sirius XM’s “Main Street Meets the Beltway,”  Trump said the following: “Had Andrew Jackson been a little later you wouldn’t have had the Civil War. He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart, and he was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War. He said, ‘There’s no reason for this.’ ”

This has the scent of full out wacko Bannon historical analysis put through the Trump analysis blender.

The historian Brion McClanahan, author of the extremely insightful  9 Presidents Who Screwed Up America and Four Who Tried to Save Herwrites:
Trump is no scholar and his reverence for Jackson is troubling, for it was Jackson who provided the blueprint for Lincoln’s heavy handed tactics toward the South in 1861. To suggest that he would have worked out a compromise is a stretch...
But then McClanahan goes on:
 Nothing can sugarcoat Lincoln’s headlong rush into the bloodiest war in American history.
Trump may have been on to something here. Better leadership could have avoided the carnage.
But Trump doesn't seem to be linking his appreciation of Jackson's skills with what Trump can do in the present.  Why not enter into negotiations with North Korea and in other hot spots, if he admires the idea that Jackson would have avoided war?

Why is Bannon not telling him this?

But here's the thing. Bannon isn't telling Trump a lot of things. Indeed, I reported exclusively that Bannon offered no opposition  to Trump's cruise missile attack on Syria.

Bannon is in favor of tariffs and is pushing them aggressively, Jackson was against tariffs and lowered them when he was in office. Imports increased more than 250% during the Jackson presidency. The exact opposite of what Trump desires under his mercantilist views.

Bannon has dissed Austrian school economists who are in favor of ending the Fed. "They’re not living in the real world.," he said. Jackson was a staunch anti-central bank president.

And while Bannon and Trump are announcing they want to "prime the pump" FDR style and expand the deficit, Jackson got the United States completely out of debt.

Here is Murray Rothbard in his book, A History of Money and Banking in the United States: The Colonial Era to World War II, on Jackson:
Indeed, no movement in American politics has been as flagrantly
misunderstood by historians as the Jacksonians. They
were emphatically not, as historians until recently have
depicted, either “ignorant anti-capitalist agrarians,” or “representatives
of the rising entrepreneurial class,” or “tools of the
inflationary state banks,” or embodiments of an early proletarian
anticapitalist movement or a nonideological power group or
“electoral machine.” The Jacksonians were libertarians, plain
and simple. Their program and ideology were libertarian; they
strongly favored free enterprise and free markets, but they just
as strongly opposed special subsidies and monopoly privileges
conveyed by government to business or to any other group.
They favored absolutely minimal government, certainly at the
federal level, but also at the state level. They believed that government
should be confined to upholding the rights of private
property. In the monetary sphere, this meant the separation of
government from the banking system and a shift from inflationary
paper money and fractional reserve banking to pure
specie and banks confined to 100-percent reserves.
Clearly, from a free market perspective, there is a lot Trump could learn from Jackson. But why isn't Bannon filling Trump in on this? It is once again the shallow mischievous "historian" Bannon spinning Jackson in a bizarre mold that is nothing like the real Jackson, to push Trump in the direction of higher tariffs, greater deficits and a continuation of the Federal Reserve---all policies that are the direct opposite of Jackson policies.

Yes, Trump needs, in many ways, to become more like Jackson, the real Jackson.

Robert Wenzel is Editor & Publisher of and Target Liberty. He also writes EPJ Daily Alert and is author of The Fed Flunks: My Speech at the New York Federal Reserve Bank. Follow him on twitter:@wenzeleconomics, on LinkedIn and Facebook. The Robert Wenzel podcast is on  iphone and stitcher.


  1. Jackson was excellent on dealing with central bankers and the big gov't types of his day. His govt's genocidal campaign against Native Americans was decidedly less than libertarian (at least in the modern sense of NAP), though.

    1. We should learn from the Native Americans about why it is important to keep foreigners out of your country. It turns out that when you allow unchecked immigration, you end up getting conquered and bred out of existence.

    2. @ Hollow Daze

      A good point about the "Trail of Tears". I am unsure if Rothbard is only focusing on the market side of things, but it's pretty glaring to call Jacksonians libertarian while ignoring the property rights (and treaty) failures regarding the NAs.

      A sad chapter in U.S. history, along with the deadly postbellum actions toward NAs out West.

    3. @Paul

      How can it be possible for a person to be "bred out of existence?"

  2. "Why not enter into negotiations with North Korea and in other hot spots..."

    You may not like or approve of the style, but what Trump is doing regarding Syria and North Korea both is indeed negotiating.

  3. He favored lower tariffs, but he sure didn’t oppose them. From Wikipedia:

    “On July 14, 1832, Jackson signed into law the Tariff of 1832. It was designed to placate the nullifiers by lowering tariff rates, but the nullifiers in South Carolina remained unsatisfied. On November 24, the South Carolina legislature officially nullified both the Tariff of 1832 and the Tariff of 1828.[117][118] In response, Jackson sent U.S. Navy warships to Charleston harbor, and threatened to hang any man who worked to support nullification or secession.[119]”

    "In December 1832, Jackson issued a resounding proclamation against the "nullifiers", stating that he considered "the power to annul a law of the United States, assumed by one State, incompatible with the existence of the Union, contradicted expressly by the letter of the Constitution, unauthorized by its spirit, inconsistent with every principle on which it was founded, and destructive of the great object for which it was formed"."

    "Jackson asked Congress to pass a "Force Bill" explicitly authorizing the use of military force to enforce the tariff,..."

    Force Bill:
    "Passed by Congress at the urging of President Andrew Jackson, the Force Bill consisted of eight sections expanding presidential power and was designed to compel the state of South Carolina's compliance with a series of federal tariffs, opposed by John C. Calhoun and other leading South Carolinians. Among other things, the legislation stipulated that the president could, if he deemed it necessary, deploy the U.S. Army to force South Carolina to comply with the law."

    In addition to the above and his Indian removal policy that's already been mentioned, he owned hundreds of slaves in his life. He was far from a libertarian.