Meacham: America Wil Be OK — ‘Despite the President, Not Because of Him’

Monday on MSNBC, presidential historian and network contributor Jon Meacham said America would survive the coronavirus pandemic “despite” President Donald Trump “not because of him.”

Host Nicolle Wallace said, “We’ve been robbed of that part of the presidency that griefs with us. That when we’re alone in our car on the way back from the grocery store, peeling off our gloves and masks and you sob for all the lives lost, there’s no feeling that the president is anywhere in that residence sobbing with you.”

Meacham said, “No, FDR said in the wake of September 11, 1932, that the presidency was preeminently a place of moral leadership, meaning there’s a spiritual dimension to the office. Woodrow Wilson, for all his faults, had the insight that the presidency enables a man to be as big as he can. What we’ve seen, tragically, in the last three years is that obviously also the obverse is true, that you can be as small as you can. I think the presidency is a mystical office, and people get upset about that, and they think that people like me or overly romantic or sentimental about it. But as a matter of clinical observation, the country tends to do better when a president, as you say, is empathetic and signals that his concerns and cares are our concerns and cares and vice versa. For all the controversy about George W. Bush, for all the controversy about Bill Clinton, for all the controversy about Barack Obama, George H.W. Bush, we could go back to Washington, for all of those controversies, there was this sense in moments of crisis, that they filled a certain moral leadership and that’s simply not what we have now.”

Wallace asked, “Donald Trump did something on Fox yesterday in an interview or something at the Lincoln Memorial. And he said that he gets—he said this, ‘I’m greeted by a hostile press, the likes of which no president has ever seen. They always said nobody got treated worse than Lincoln. I believe I am treated worse. Do you think he knows what happened to Lincoln?”

Meacham said, “Vaguely, he probably saw a trailer for the movie at some point. You know, we have to remember, we’re dealing with a president who is the human equivalent of an open synapse, right? It’s just reaction. It’s just nerve endings, and that’s all it is. There’s not, you know, there’s not a strategy to it or strategery, in honor of President Bush.”

When asked if “we’re going to be OK?” Meacham said, “I do, but I think it’s going to be despite the president, not because of him.”

Follow Pam Key on Twitter @pamkeyNEN


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