A series of generally unscripted appearances by the president has provided the Political Uses of the Past Project with a bevy of unusual history-centered claims. Apparently, Trump seems to be, according to Trump, “the only person in the history of our country that could really decimate ISIS,” and is the “most popular president in the history of the Republican party.

Such hyperbole is worth cataloging and considering but the more interesting claims in this batch are the ones that seem to bolster a policy (rather than just our president’s self-perception). His sense of a border crisis is fueled by the idea that we are living through a time of unprecedented human trafficking (even worse than the Atlantic slave trade?). His transactional view of international relations finds support in his idea that the Soviet Union was right to invade Afghanistan. And he can see himself as the savior of the economy more easily if he believes that high gasoline prices, pretty much on their own, can cause a depression.This project hopes to illuminate our elected officials’ views of the present through their uses of the past, and Trump has, in these first few days of 2019, already given us much to consider. Moving forward, some of his statements will be sent out to historians for comment, others will join a catalog of political uses of the past in a database and in visualizations that will hunt for patterns and changes over time.

Congress has also gotten off to a roaring start with their uses of the past, and their statements will appear here soon.

Trump: Because of the Internet, the kidnapping and selling of persons is “the highest it's ever been in history”

Donald Trump The United States needs a physical barrier, needs a wall, to stop illegal immigration and to halt deadly inflow of drugs and crime. You have human traffickers. It’s a thing that’s horrible. Think of it: human trafficking. They kidnap people, they steal people, and they sell people. And because of the Internet, one of the bad things that happens with the Internet — one of the many bad things — but because of the Internet, it’s the highest it’s ever been in history.

–President Donald Trump, Remarks by President Trump in Cabinet Meeting, White House, January 3, 2019

Historians: Rate or comment

Trump: The Soviet Union was “right” to invade Afghanistan, but “it was a tough fight” and “they went bankrupt” as a result

Donald TrumpRussia used to be the Soviet Union. Afghanistan made it Russia, because they went bankrupt fighting in Afghanistan. Russia. So you take a look at other countries. Pakistan is there; they should be fighting. But Russia should be fighting. The reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia. They were right to be there. The problem is it was a tough fight. And literally, they went bankrupt. They went into being called Russia again, as opposed to the Soviet Union. You know, a lot these places you’re reading about now are no longer a part of Russia because of Afghanistan. But why isn’t Russia there? … Why are we there, and we’re 6,000 miles away?

–President Donald Trump, Remarks by President Trump in Cabinet Meeting, White House, January 3, 2019

Historians: Rate or comment

Trump: “They say I’m the most popular President in the history of the Republican Party”

Donald TrumpQ : Do you expect to get challenged from within the Republican Party in 2020?

Trump: I don’t see it. I think I have the highest rating in the history of — I was just looking at that poll. Yeah, I think — I mean, I don’t know why, but they like me. They say I’m the most popular President in the history of the Republican Party.

–President Donald Trump, Remarks by President Trump in Cabinet Meeting, White House, January 3, 2019

Historians: Rate or comment

Trump: My plans will give us “great border security for the first time in, really, the history of our country”

Donald TrumpAnd I think I’ll be even more proud if we can have great border security for the first time in, really, the history of our country. The southern border is a dangerous, horrible disaster. We’ve done a great job, but you can’t really do the kind of job we have to do unless you have a major, powerful barrier. And that’s what we’re going to have to have.

–President Donald Trump, Remarks by President Trump After Meeting with Congressional Leadership on Border Security, White House, January 4, 2019

Historians: Rate or comment

Trump: NAFTA is “probably the worst trade deal ever made, maybe”

Donald TrumpNAFTA has been one of the great disasters of all time. Probably the worst trade deal ever made, maybe.

–President Donald Trump, Remarks by President Trump After Meeting with Congressional Leadership on Border Security, White House, January 4, 2019

Historians: Rate or comment

Trump: If gas prices had risen to $100-$125 a barrel, “then you would’ve had a recession, depression, like we’ve had in the past when that happened”

Donald TrumpPeople see that gasoline is way down. And the reason it’s way down is because I called up some of the OPEC people. I say, “Don’t do it.” You know, if you look back a few months, gasoline was at $83 a barrel. That was going to be bad. And it was going to $100, and some people were saying $125. And I make calls. I said, “You better let that oil and that gasoline flow.” And they did. And now it’s down to $44. … I called up certain people, and I said, “Let that damn oil and gasoline — you let it flow — the oil.” It was going up to $125. If that would’ve happened, then you would’ve had a recession, depression, like we’ve had in the past when that happened.

–President Donald Trump, Remarks by President Trump in Cabinet Meeting, White House, January 3, 2019

Historians: Rate or comment

Trump: “I’m the only person in the history of our country that could really decimate ISIS”

Donald TrumpI mean, I’m the only person in the history of our country that could really decimate ISIS, say we’re bringing the troops back home over a period of time.

–President Donald Trump, Remarks by President Trump in Cabinet Meeting, White House, January 3, 2019

Historians: Rate or comment

Trump: “In the past, single adults have been the vast majority of illegal aliens”

Donald Trump To break it down, there are three categories of illegal aliens arriving at our border: single adults, family units, and unaccompanied children. In the past, single adults have been the vast majority of illegal aliens.

–President Donald Trump, Remarks by President Trump in Cabinet Meeting, White House, January 3, 2019

Historians: Rate or comment

Trump: “Unemployment for black, Hispanic, Asian, is at the lowest it’s ever been in the history of our country”

Donald TrumpUnemployment for black, Hispanic, Asian, is at the lowest it’s ever been in the history of our country. … You know, when you have record low — in the history of our country — unemployment for African Americans, or for Asians, or for Hispanics, that’s tough to beat.

–President Donald Trump, Remarks by President Trump in Cabinet Meeting, White House, January 3, 2019

Historians: Rate or comment

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