The press today is never dumber than when they report on politics. Except when they try tackling history. Especially American history. And most especially Civil War history.
Which is kind of funny considering that an entire region of the United States has been obsessed with every drama, maneuver and mortar blast of that conflict since the day it ended along the banks of the Appomattox River over a century and a half ago.
A slight bit biased here and there, perhaps. But as for the dates, figures and details — they are studied like the cosmos. Home-brew historians can re-enact every battle and skirmish and pinpoint within inches where their forbearers fell and died during the most ferocious battles.
Now, before anybody starts hurling accusations about how racist Southerners are for studying the Civil War, let’s remember one very important point. The South lost the war.
It’s a funny thing about things like this throughout history. To the victor go the spoils. But the beaten never forget.
“Forget, Hell!” one might say.
Just ask Japan. The intricate tomes of loss by Southern writer William Faulkner and the wailing, mournful tunes of bluegrass music so deeply entwined with the South have been a salve to the Emperor’s people since their annihilation at the end of World War II.
Enthusiastically studying history is not about wanting to repeat it. Quite the opposite. It is about understanding who we are and how we got here and how we might avoid some of the more unpleasant experiences from history.
This is not a task that furrows the brow of your average political reporter today. They just see people who aren’t like them, who maybe talk a little funny and vote a lot different. For reporters, anyone like that, clearly, must be just about the worst thing you can call a person today: “racist.”
And there is no one more racist to these sheltered snowflakes than Don from Queens.
To these elite, the “otherness” of President Trump makes them feel so uncomfortable it drives them utterly mad. The fact Mr. Trump beat the whole political system and sits across the Resolute Desk from Kanye West is simply more than they can bear.
So he must be racist. And, somehow, so is Kanye.
Then Mr. Trump wanders into one of the most epic moments of Civil War history during a speech last week in Ohio, birthplace of legendary Civil War Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.
“So Robert E. Lee was a great general,” Mr. Trump said. “And Abraham Lincoln developed a phobia. He couldn’t beat Robert E. Lee.”
Cue the media, who somehow went wild over Mr. Trump complimenting Gen. Lee as a “great general.”
As anyone who has ever studied four minutes of Civil War history knows, of course, Mr. Trump’s comments are totally and completely factual and accurate. Lee was a brilliant tactician whose battlefield genius is still studied today. The war likely would have been over in one week if Gen. Lee had not sided with his home state of Virginia.
Also true is that President Lincoln was driven to distraction by all his great generals who were terrified to send their big beautiful armies into actual battles against the fearsome Gen. Lee.
That is, until he tapped Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, whom Mr. Trump sought to compliment there in his home state of Ohio. As if this is the first time a politician has ever complimented a home crowd’s favorite son.
Mr. Trump went on to say Gen. Grant was also a “great general” and that he “knocked the hell out of everyone,” referring to Gen. Lee and the Confederate Army.
Gen. Grant, Mr. Trump noted, also had a “drinking problem.” Thank goodness President Lincoln did not nominate him to the Supreme Court.
• Contact Charles Hurt at [email protected] or on Twitter @charleshurt.
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