There is a meme spreading earnestly across the right aisle of the Internet contending that Donald Trump is such a great president that the only predecessor he can be fairly compared to is … Abraham Lincoln. This thesis was cemented into public consciousness by the latest film from noted far-far-right history-warping conservative commentator Dinesh “D’Spicable” D’Souza, which explicitly makes the comparison. (The poster for the film has Lincoln’s face morphing into Trump’s.)
Rather than make fun of this contention, as a representative of the beleaguered Mainstream Media falsely accused of bias, I decided to do my best to dispassionately examine and evaluate it. To assure accuracy and evenhandedness, I consulted my good friend and colleague David Von Drehle, who is an actual Lincoln scholar.
Surprisingly, perhaps, we found the Trump-Lincoln comparison to be defensible. Here are the highlights of our investigation. (There are two in which our sourcing is a little thin. See if you can guess which.)
●Lincoln and Trump are the only two presidents to have declared war on half the country.
●Both men won in elections where the black vote was suppressed.
●Both men were Republicans who defeated Democrats. In 1860, the Republican Party favored social progressivism and bigger government, and the Democrats opposed these things, but still, undeniably: Both men were Republicans who defeated Democrats.
●Lincoln suffered from depression. Trump finds many things “SAD!”
●In his youth, Lincoln was a highly respected rassler, voted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame for his reputed 300-1 record in neighborhood bouts. Donald Trump was voted into the World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. Hall of Fame for sucker-punching Vince McMahon at ringside, and then putting shaving cream on his head and shaving him bald.
●Lincoln was once closely associated with Whigs. Trump … well, you know.
●Speaking of which, Trump and Lincoln each had notoriously unruly hair. In a stiff wind, Trump’s curlicue comb-over has been known to lift up and off like a 747 leaving a tarmac of flesh. While visiting troops at Fort Monroe, Lincoln was once offered an elegant hairbrush by a wealthy officer. “I can’t do anything with such a thing as that!” Lincoln replied. “It wouldn’t go through my hair. Now, if you have anything you comb your horse’s mane with, that might do.”
●Both men were fat. It’s just that the verticality of Lincoln’s stovepipe hat was extremely slimming.
●Lincoln probably wished he never heard the name Ford. So does Trump.
●It is not widely known, but in the later years, Lincoln left Mary for a Slovenian supermodel.
●Both Trump and Lincoln were famous for introspective quotes. Lincoln: “I pass my life in preventing the storm from blowing down the tent, and I drive in the pegs as fast as they are pulled up.”
Trump: “Nobody’s ever done a better job than I’m doing as president. That I can tell you.”
I think we’ll leave it there.