If President Trump knows anything, it’s how to promote a brand. He thinks George Washington could have done himself a favor.
On Wednesday, Politico published a story about a trip the president and first lady took to Mount Vernon last April with French president Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte. Mount Vernon is the sprawling Virginia estate of George Washington that has been turned into a historical center and common destination for middle school field trips. Trump was dismayed that the first president didn’t slap his name all over the place. “If he was smart, he would’ve put his name on it,” the president reportedly said during the trip. “You’ve got to put your name on stuff or no one remembers you.”
George Washington, it goes without saying, is the most recognizable name in American history. Though “WASHINGTON” isn’t emblazoned in gold across the front of the 18th-century plantation, the nation’s capital, an entire state and countless schools were all named after the first president.
When Mount Vernon CEO Doug Bradburn, who served as the tour guide for the world leaders, responded to the president’s advice by pointing out that Washington was successful in naming the nation’s capital named after himself, Trump reportedly said good point and laughed. Outside of the naming issue, Bradburn had a tough time holding Trump’s attention during the 45-minute tour. A source familiar with the trip said that Bradburn was “desperately” trying to get Trump interested in Mount Vernon, to little avail. Trump did, however, ask if Washington was “really rich.” Of course.
According Politico, Bradburn described the experience of guiding Trump “truly bizarre,” and told several people that the Macrons were “far more knowledgeable about the history of the property than the president.”
The president’s dearth of knowledge about the country’s most famous citizen isn’t surprising. Trump has shown little interest the history of the United States, and on multiple occasions has demonstrated a shocking level of ignorance regarding basic events that shaped America. The Civil War is one of his favorite topics. In 2017, he tweeted that Andrew Jackson, a slaveowner, was “angry” that the Civil War was “coming” and would have prevented it from happening if he had been alive when it began.
President Andrew Jackson, who died 16 years before the Civil War started, saw it coming and was angry. Would never have let it happen!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 2, 2017
As Rick Reilly reminded readers in his new book Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump, the president also constructed a fake Civil War memorial on Trump National Golf Club in Washington, D.C. The monument on the Potomac River, titled “River of Blood,” is signed by Trump and claims that “many great American soldiers … died at this spot.” The claim has been debunked by historians. A Civil War battle did not occur at the site.
A few months before praising Jackson’s foresight, Trump seemed to express a belief that abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass was still alive. “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who has done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice,” Trump said as part of a bumbling attempt to commemorate Black History Month.
The following year, Trump, perhaps inspired by his trip to Mount Vernon a few months earlier, pontificated on George Washington as future Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was being criticized by Democrats after multiple women accused him of sexual assault last fall.
“I’m relying on very fair and talented Republican senators,” Trump said of Kavanaugh’s confirmation process. “If we brought George Washington here and we said ‘We have George Washington,’ the Democrats would vote against him, just so you understand. He may have had a bad past. Who knows? He may have had some I think accusations made. Didn’t he have a couple things in his past? George Washington would be voted against 100 percent by Schumer and the con artists. One hundred percent, 100 percent.”