Don’t worry. Despite Donald Trump’s supposed “new leaf” that has him trying act and sound “presidential,” he’s going to continue to say ignorant, stupid and offensive things, because he really doesn’t know what is “presidential,” or ignorant, stupid and offensive, for that matter.
Today’s example was his off-the-cuff commentary about Harriet Tubman replacing President Andrew Jackson on the twenty-dollar bill.Trump said:
“I think Harriet Tubman is fantastic. I would love to leave Andrew Jackson and see if we can come up with another denomination. Maybe we do the $2 bill or another bill. I don’t like seeing it. Yes, I think it’s pure political correctness. He’s been on the bill for many, many years and really represented somebody that was really very important to this country.”
1. Ethics Alarms offers this competence and responsibility-based rule for public figures, especially those running for President of the United States.
If you can’t say something that is constructive, coherent and adds substance to the discussion, keep your opinion to yourself.
Of course, that would mean Trump would seldom get to say anything. Still, this statement was completely gratuitous, vapid, clumsy and wrong.
2. Is anyone really upset about Andrew Jackson being bumped to the back of the bill for Harriet Tubman? Anyone other than incorrigible racists, Andrew Jackson fanatics, loyal Tennesseans or idiots, that is? This fact should be critical for those who lack a passing knowledge of Jackson and his administration: Andy hated banks, maybe even worse that Bernie Sanders. His was always a weird choice for a face on a Treasury bill.
3. As usual, Trump can’t argue or reason, so he retreats to rationalizations. “He’s been on the bill for many, many years”—and? Why does that matter? Who made the rule that the designs on currency have tenure? Ben Franklin was on the fifty cent piece for a long time, then JFK got the honor. There is no such rule. What would be wrong with rotating the great Americans on coins and bills?
4. Jackson was “somebody that was really very important to this country,” though I’d love to hear Trump explain how. He was one of the four or five most influential and transformative Presidents, the real founder of the modern Democratic party, and yes, he deserves to be defined by much more than his single, disgraceful, incalculably harmful decision to persecute Native Americans. It is very possible, for example, that had Jackson not been in office, the Southern states would have seceded long before 1861, and no one would have stopped them. Trump should read “American Lion” by Jon Meachum as should anyone who is tempted to dismiss Andrew Jackson as a villain. He was a great American and the nation owes him honor and gratitude. As we dig deeper into the administrations of all of our Presidents, we find that none of them, even the best, were able to avoid actions and decisions that in retrospect were deplorable, deadly or disastrous. Jackson was no different. Part of why we honor these men is the courage it requires to accept such responsibility and the weight of making momentous, life-altering decisions. Nobody accepted that weight more boldly than Old Hickory.
5. Placing a woman, and African-American, and especially this African-American woman on a well-used bill isn’t “political correctness.” Everything that is popular with progressive interest groups isn’t just politically correct. Harriet Tubman was a great American too. Does Trump really know what opposing political correctness means? If something makes sense and is independently justifiable, does the fact it is applauded by the habitually political correct make it wrong?
6. Oh, nice, Donald: recommend that the first black and woman to be honored on a greenback be put on the $2 bill. The bill historically regarded as being unlucky. The bill associated with gambling and houses of prostitution. The bill that never gets used. This would certainly follow with the experience the Treasury has had with other doomed attempts to place women on currency nobody would use, like the Sacagawea dollar (now THAT was political correctness run wild) and the Susan B. Anthony dollar. And what other denomination? Would it be better to remove Washington, Lincoln, Franklin or Hamilton than Jackson? Are you suggesting a new denomination that nobody will use? A three dollar bill, perhaps, as in “phonier than”?
I don’t think Trump intended this comment to be insulting to African-Americans and women, but any sentient political should have known it would be before the statement traveled from his brain to his vocal cords and out his mouth.
CORRECTION: The original version of this post erroneously included a graphic of a bill with Sojourner Truth’s photo, rather than Tubman’s. Ethics Alarms apologizes to readers, and Harriet.