Dear Mr President,

I guess it’s pretty obvious that you haven’t read much history - given that you didn’t know that Lincoln was a Republican; that Frederick Douglass isn’t one of your supporters; that the Civil War battle of “The River of Blood”, fulsomely commemorated by a plaque on one of your golf courses, never happened, there or anywhere else; that Kim Jong Il no longer rules North Korea; that NATO conducts counter-terrorism operations; that every middle school graduate knows who Susan B. Anthony was; and that Andrew Jackson wasn’t angry about the Civil War because he was dead long before anyone thought of waging it. So reading the hundred or so books that would minimally prepare you to comprehend the geopolitics of the world you bestride like a psychosis wouldn’t pay off in the short run, and let’s face it, a man who is 70, overweight, and in a high-stress job hasn’t got a long run.

So forget that. Try to think instead about how history will read you. And there is no doubt that it will - intensely, obsessively, eternally. Generations of school-kids in the twenty-second century will match your boasts against your actual achievements and scoff at the short-sighted motives that led you to ignore the perfectly obvious consequences which have damned them to a world that is broken in ways and on a scale for which history can provide no precedent. You are not going into the books on your own terms - as, I suppose you imagine, a populist hero, a champion of the forgotten and neglected, a Spartacus, a Robin Hood, a Emiliano Zapata. Instead, you are on track to be remembered as greedier than William Randolph Hearst, more corrupt than Boss Tweed, dumber than Sarah Palin.

But you can still salvage something from the detritus of your own bombast. What if you (with expert advice) took a determined stand in favor of a few of your own least-meant promises - to work out a healthcare plan that really would cover everyone equally with lower premiums, or to boost wages through massive infrastructure projects, or to find a sensible way of granting citizenship to law-abiding immigrants, or to embrace science rather than the ideology of oil magnates? What if you really did drain the swamp of lobbyists posing as officials, starting with your own cabinet? What if instead of applauding the brutality of dictators, you applauded the courage of the people who stand up to them? History never forgets, but it sometimes forgives.

 

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