Jon Meacham said Donald Trump may have hit the peak of his presidency, but his chances of winning a second term have improved.
“His presidency will never get better than this week. He’s got the wind at his back and what he does with it will shape his and our future,” Meacham said, referring to Trump March 22 being cleared of any possible Russian interference and/or collusion between his campaign and the Russians. “If (former FBI) Director (Robert) Mueller had come back with evidence of active collusion between the Trump campaign and a foreign government, I think he would be removed from office one way or another.
“The fact that there is no evidence of this (means) the Democratic Party needs to put away any idea of him being ousted (through an investigation). It’s now totally plausible that he’ll serve two terms, which was not plausible before Friday.”
Meacham, a presidential historian and best-selling author, spoke on Trump and more at a lecture March 26 in front of a crowd of about 1,000 at the Lovett School in Buckhead. Meacham, who lives in Nashville, works as a political science professor at Vanderbilt University and as a contributing writer for the New York Times Book Review and Time magazine.
He has written or co-authored at least eight books, including “American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House,” which won the Pulitzer Prize for biography or autobiography in 2009. Meacham partnered with country music star Tim McGraw on his next book, “Songs of America: Patriotism, Protest, and the Music That Made a Nation,” set to be released in June, according to Amazon.com.
In introducing Meacham, Lovett Head of School Meredyth Cole said, “Jon Meacham has been called one of America’s most prominent public intellectuals. His list of best-sellers is extraordinary.”
Meacham, whose books include “Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush,” gave eulogies at the funerals of both Bush and his wife Barbara last year.
During a Q&A following his speech, one attendee asked if Trump should be compared to Jackson, another controversial president.
“They both have immovable hair,” Meacham said jokingly before getting serious. “I think the moment is Jacksonian but I don’t think Trump is Jackson.”
To those attendees who don’t like Trump, he said he doesn’t rank that low in the history of U.S. presidents.
“It’s not as bad as you think,” Meacham said. “You’re telling us this guy with the Twitter account is the worst thing ever? I don’t think he’s great, but I don’t think he’s that bad.”
While part of the United States’ problems today stem from a divide between cultures and races, its diversity actually makes it more powerful than one might think.
“(Regarding) immigrants, we (in America) have the idea that people want to come here. There is something at our heart and something at our essence, that (President Ronald) Reagan talked about in his farewell speech in January 1989, his use of a shining city on a hill. City on a hill comes from (the Bible’s) sermon on the mount,” Meacham said, adding Reagan explained the U.S. must be open to others.
“We’re stronger when we open our arms. … “Diversity is not a weakness. It’s a strength. That’s not partisan. It’s a fact.”
He said while the country today has its problems, there are three ways Trump as president, drawing on what past presidents have done. can fix America.
“One is curiosity. We have to be curious into the new insights of the world,” Meacham said, pointing to Thomas Jefferson as a good example of the curiosity. “Two is humility, the ability to admit mistakes. My favorite example of this is if John Kennedy didn’t learn from his mistakes, there would have been nuclear war. … The Bay of Pigs (invasion) was a total disaster.
“He reached out to (former President Dwight) Eisenhower, who conquered the Nazis. … They meet at Camp David. He realized Kennedy never had a full meeting with all the stakeholders and officers so they could weigh in against each other. With the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy was humble enough to remember he had to learn from his mistakes.”
“The last is sociability. It’s absolutely critical to the art of citizenship. … If you have a sense of sociability, you can (succeed).”