He is perhaps the richest president in American history.
He is cantankerous, unpredictable, disruptive.
He hates the media and is openly at war with them. Meanwhile, the media have begun to attack his own family. He is secretly trying to buy his own media properties with plans to fight back.
He is at war with the Senate, including members from his own party. They retaliate by blocking some of his appointments.
He can’t trust his own cabinet, who he accuses of undermining him. This includes some of his most loyal, original supporters.
Behind it all is his campaign to “drain the swamp” and end what he sees as insider corruption, using the government to line their pockets.
I am speaking, of course, about Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States.
I was one of the first students of history to call attention to the uncanny comparisons between the populist, Andrew Jackson and Donald Trump. This was shared years ago in an interview with Neil Cavuto. Two weeks later it was written up in a New York Times article. Now, with the open dialogue between President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, its time to take another look.
Some would argue that George Washington was actually more wealthy, comparisons are subjective. But still, Andrew Jackson was very rich.
Andrew Jackson blamed the newspapers for the death of his wife. Journalists wrote stories about Rachel Jackson, accusing her of being an adulterer and bigamist. The devout, religious Rachel was protected from theses stories but finally found them during a shopping trip in Nashville. She was trying to buy a dress for the inauguration. Her girlfriends tried to keep her away from the stacks of old newspapers laying around the shops but she was riveted.
Rachel went into a deep funk and died before the inauguration. She never wore her inaugural dress and she never set foot in the White House.
The Senate quarreled with Jackson and for the first time in American history, refused to approve a presidents’ cabinet nominee.
Furious with his outspoken attacks, they officially censured him in 1834.
Jackson became so estranged from his own cabinet, each of which had their own political entanglements, that he started meeting secretly in a back room of the White House with some informal friends that he trusted. This included an army major, two editors of newspapers who helped advise him on fighting back at his print media tormentors, a sympathetic U.S. Senator, his personal secretary, among others.
Word of the meetings became public. Because the room was close to the White House kitchen the informal advisers were dubbed “the kitchen cabinet.”
Critics said it was outrageous and unconstitutional. Instead, every president since Andrew Jackson has had his own “kitchen cabinet” of informal outside advisers. It became the beginnings of a White House political staff.
Jackson’s enemies accused him of being a sexist. It was the wives of cabinet members who drove the personal animosity. It all erupted with “the Peggy Eaton affair” where Jackson defended one of their own who had married a woman who was allegedly a former prostitute.
Andrew Jackson’s unpredictable and mercurial personality didn’t help matters. He was quick tempered. By some estimates he fought in one hundred duels. He died with bullets still in his body.
Behind it all was “money.” Andrew Jackson opposed the national bank which he saw as a device for insiders to get wealthy off the backs of the common men. This was behind the Senate’s censure of Jackson. It was why they denied his appointment as Secretary of the Treasury. It was why Jackson became isolated from the Washington establishment.
In spite of it all, Andrew Jackson was extremely popular with the people, themselves. He eventually cobbled together a chain of newspapers, which were called “the Jackson papers” and were deadly at attacking the political opposition.
In 1831 the Senate had rejected Martin Van Buren, Andrew Jackson’s nominee for Ambassador to Great Britain. It was a personal slap in the face to the president, meant to be a teaching experience for the new president, a lesson in power politics.
Later, Andrew Jackson got his revenge. When he ran for reelection, Martin Van Buren was added to the ticket as his vice president. Upon leaving office, Jackson used his popularity with the people to help get Martin Van Buren elected president himself.
Political experts saw Andrew Jackson as a shooting star that would race across the sky and excite the masses for a few moments and then be gone. Instead, he re-ordered power in Washington and impacted American history forever.
Today, his bronze statue sits in Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House. Andrew Jackson is on horseback, looking back at the front portico, waving his hat, obviously enjoying the last laugh. Perhaps, he is also waving to Donald Trump, and enjoying the ironies.