History | September 26, 2017 11:50 am

How Historians Judge the Trump Presidency So Far

Jon Meacham, Robert Dallek among Vanity Fair panelists who use history to parse it.

President Donald J. Trump listens as West Virginia Governor Jim Justice announces that he is switching parties to become a republican during the president's campaign rally at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena on August 3, 2017 in Huntington, West Virginia.
HUNTINGTON, WV - AUGUST 03: President Donald J. Trump listens as West Virginia Governor Jim Justice announces that he is switching parties to become a republican during the president's campaign rally at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena on August 3, 2017 in Huntington, West Virginia. (Photo by Justin Merriman/Getty Images)

It’s only been 10 months since Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, but a lot has happened. And Vanity Fair wanted to see how history might judge Trump’s presidency, despite his record not being anywhere close to complete.

To do so, VF put together a panel of presidential scholars—A. Scott Berg, Robert Dallek, Jon Meacham, Edmund Morris, Stacy Schiff, and Garry Wills—to try to answer that question. RealClearLife has condensed the feature into the highlights of some of the experts’ conclusions.

Jon Meacham
-Meacham says that President Trump lacks the type of “humility and history” that John F. Kennedy had in dealing with the Cuban Missile Crisis. He had learned a valuable lesson after the botched Bay of Pigs invasion. That “decisions required care and questioning,” writes Meacham. “To JFK, history taught that pride, emotion, and hurry were the enemies of the good. A crisis was not a time for a trigger—or a Twitter—finger.”

-Of Trump’s foreign policy, Meacham writes: “From his confounding man crush on Vladimir Putin to his nuclear saber-rattling with North Korea, Trump has created more fear than hope—and hope is an essential element of presidential leadership.”

Stacy Schiff: She writes of the president: “Having won a victory ‘the likes of which the world has never seen before,’ Donald Trump seems to believe himself exempt from history. He may prefer to skip, snarl at, scorn, and scramble the past, to occupy a sanitized present, scrubbed of context and consequence. You only get to hold the truth hostage for so long, however.”

Robert Dallek
-With the president’s approval rating at 35 percent, Dallek notes that “Every president since Franklin D. Roosevelt—even those who won the office by the narrowest of margins, as John F. Kennedy did in 1960 and George W. Bush did in 2000—have enjoyed general, if not always strong, approval at the start of their terms.”

-Dallek says Trump could learn a thing or to from Franklin D. Roosevelt, who made it a point to bring the country together. “Through his appointments to high office, Roosevelt brought previously marginalized groups—Irish, Italians, Eastern Europeans, Catholics, Jews—into the mainstream of the country’s life.” To the unification point, Dallek writes: “Eight months into Donald Trump’s presidency, it is impossible to imagine him unifying the country behind his leadership.”

Garry Wills: Of the president he says, “Trump openly loves himself as much as Nixon secretly loathed himself.”