With the possible exception of Andrew Johnson, no president in American history has suffered as many self-inflicted wounds as Donald Trump — and he has only recently passed the hallway point of his presidency.

There has not been much news about Andrew Johnson in more than a century, but the man who served as Abraham Lincoln’s second vice president has crawled his way out from the history books.

Lincoln’s successor used the office to stoke racial division at a time of necessary national healing. In rambling speeches, he painted himself as a victim of shadowy conspiracies working to end his presidency. He abused his power to remove officials for insufficient loyalty, while appointing others who were clearly unqualified for their jobs. A critic described Johnson as “egotistic to the point of mental disease … [a] demagogue and autocrat ” that “converts the Presidential chair into a stump or a throne.”

Sound familiar?

Johnson was the first of two presidents to have been impeached — Bill Clinton being the other — and with impeachment fever on the rise again with a possible move toward impeachment against Donald Trump, the similarities between Johnson’s and Trump’s personalities are remarkable, if not downright scary.

Brenda Wineapple’s riveting new account of the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson, “The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation” contains no mention of Trump. Wineapple has written a well-timed book on a question rising from today’s headlines: Should the country consider impeaching a reckless, loose-tongued and deeply divisive president as a vital matter of national principle?

Not unlike Trump, Johnson was, according to Wineapple, a “vain, vulgar, and vindictive” president, poorly positioned to lead a country emerging from a devastating civil war. He openly espoused white superiority. Unlike most of his fellow Southerners, however, he called secession treason and charged the South’s plantation-owning elite with abandoning the Constitution.

Lincoln rewarded him with the post of military governor of Tennessee in 1862. Two years later, the Republican Party chose Johnson as Lincoln’s 1864 running mate in hopes of attracting Democratic votes in the crucial presidential race of 1864. Lincoln’s assassination made him an accidental president.

Johnson was a racist and a difficult man to get along with. He routinely called blacks inferior. He bluntly stated that no matter how much progress blacks made, they would remain inferior. He openly called critics disloyal, even treasonous. He flailed against opponents in public speeches. He rudely ignored answers he did not like. He regularly put other people into positions they were not suited for, then blamed them when his policies soured. His own bodyguard later called him “destined to conflict,” a man who “found it impossible to conciliate or temporize.”

Johnson’s background was of little help to him in dealing with congressional opposition. He was considered functionally illiterate into adulthood until his wife painstakingly taught him to read and function in the English language.

As 1865 proceeded, Johnson’s true sympathies became clear: He pardoned former Confederates. He restored confiscated lands to rebel owners. Johnson recognized new Southern state governments led by former slaveholding whites while defending laws limiting the freedom of former slaves.

In 1866, Johnson vetoed a civil rights bill that promised rights of contract and basic legal protections for blacks. But Johnson’s racial outlook led him to insist that guarantees of equality benefited blacks “against the white race.’ ”

Critics began calling for impeachment of the politically wounded president. Radical Republican candidates opposed to leniency for the vanquished South campaigned on a pro-impeachment platform in 1866. Republicans swept both houses of Congress in the midterm elections, making impeachment a real prospect.

By early 1868, Johnson had few remaining allies, leaving the House to impeach him. The House voted to impeach Johnson as a last resort, when the president showed he would be an impossible obstacle to congressional objectives. Despite vanishingly little political support, Johnson gained an acquittal. After being impeached, President Johnson survived his 1868 Senate trial by just one vote.

Historians have often referred to Andrew Johnson as the worst president in American history. But this country has never been led by anyone as dangerous as Donald Trump, a vindictive, volatile bully with no respect for law or propriety. We survived Johnson. We will survive Trump.

Jack Topchik is a retired editor whose passions include Shakespeare, the Frederick Keys and films in which people talk in complete sentences. He writes from Frederick. Email him at jaytop45@gmail.com.

(81) comments

Obadiah Plainsmen

A quote from his upcoming book The Accidental Journalist by Donald J. Trump... "I survived the NYTimes and I'll survive Jack Topchik"

awteam2000

Trump can write?

fnfn

Not without a ghost writer.

DickD

Donald will have a lot of time to write from where he is going after leaving office.

jerseygrl42

what a clown

hayduke2

Even though I agree you should show more respect for the office of the president

threecents

Yah, our president maybe a clown with orange skin, funny hair, and big bone spur shoes, but the office deserves respect.

shiftless88

[beam][beam][beam][beam]

fnfn

The office is respected, the incumbent is tearing any respect for presidents down.

Thewheelone

Ouch. Good one, Hay!!! [wink]

public-redux

Pretty good column. I didn’t know much about Johnson.

DickD

Neither did I, Gladys. I think we visited his home about 20 years ago, but don't remember much about it. I knew he was almost impeached, never bothered to find out why. I knew the South would have been better under Lincoln, but so would the freed blacks.

gabrielshorn2013

He was the only President to be impeached, until Bill Clinton, Dick. He was found not guilty by one vote in the Senate.

DickD

I knew that, Gabe.

jsklinelga

Mr. Topchik, you should have kept local. My first thought: Rubbish. I will congratulate you on literary trickery You managed to touch on almost every talking point using Johnson as a "genetic clone" of Trump. Their similarities are astounding: NOT Trump is no accidental President. and Andrew Johnson would have never go re-elected, which is now an almost foregone conclusion for President Trump. But your column fives a special twist. Instead of the constant Trump did this or Trump did that, you cleverly interchanged Trump for Johnson. Well certainly the small cadre of left leaning commentators gobbled up on the comparisons. It is their daily bread. But I agree with Des "Sane Jack, different day"

awteam2000

A contradictory comment. An oxymoron, rubbish but sane, failing to see the comparison. The Mueller Report https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/5955118-The-Mueller-Report.html

fnfn

"Sane Jack, different day" Freudian slip? Did it tell the TRUTH from the spirit of truth within? Do more self-forgiveness to find sanity.

DickD

Don't you ever feel guilty about supporting someone that violates all the rules of your religion, Jim?

jsklinelga

DickD I think you nailed it!! The reason President Trump will be reelected is he cares more about my religion than his opponents. Many think that way. He is not the quintessential Christian by any means but he is fighting for change we want. And the other party is fighting to keep God out of the public square.

shiftless88

Remember when people who valued religion used those values to encourage people of character and speak out against those without?

awteam2000

Really, He’ll be reelected because of your religious belief? Isn that a theocracy? Like Iran? He wants to keep god out of the public square? How’s that? By Imposing your religious beliefs on others. What are they? Groping women? Who you choose to marry? A women’s body? Pathological lying. Who’s American? No thanks. ðŸ™

public-redux

shiftless, No, I do not remember such a time.

hayduke2

Jsk - if you think the president models your values I feel sorry for you.

public-redux

Dick, There are many different Christianities. I see no reason to think that you and jsk have the same religion. I suspect some Christians think that Peter Paul Buttigieg is not Christian at all even though he was baptized, attended Christian schools, was married in a Christian ceremony, is openly religious, and talks about God in the public square.

DickD

2 Corinthians, Jim.

fnfn

The progressive ideas in the public square are inspired by the highest God. Don appears to be inspired by the god of this world.

llrowse

Interesting, and well researched. Comparing Johnson to Trump does show that we have had disastrous leadership before, and our Democratic-Republic survived. I agree with the other commentator who said that Twitter exacerbates the situation, or something close to that comment.

fnfn

I find it fascinating that simple Johnson; followed a complex hero Lincoln. Then simple Trump; followed another complex hero Obama. First after a war to keep blacks down, and second after an election that put a half black up, that was too much for the racist among us.

DickD

Yup, it is why the far right supporters make fun of liberals, they can't stand the truth![thumbup]

jagman

Andrew Johnson was a life long democrat. JT only slyly alludes to that fact in his opinion piece. He would never have been president had it not been for John Wilkes Booth, another democrat.

hayduke2

Once again, a simple and inaccurate analysis. The southern Democrats are not the same as the current Democratic party. But that won't serve your slanted response. Sad. https://classroom.synonym.com/civil-warera-political-parties-north-vs-south-8901.html

threecents

Jagman, I am hoping that history was not your best subject in high school.

sevenstones1000

You really think the current Republicans are The Party of Lincoln? Read your history, jagman.

public-redux

J.W. Booth was an actor, like Ronald Reagan.

fnfn

and trump the apprentice actor. [beam]

threecents

Therefore all actors are responsible for Lincoln's assassination.

public-redux

I cannot argue with logic like that. [beam]

fnfn

Democrats then, are nothing like Democrats now; just like Republicans then, are nothing like trump republicans now.

DickD

Johnson was a Democrat, Lincoln was a Republican. Johnson was a conservative, Lincoln was a liberal. Old party names mean nothing!

sevenstones1000

The Republicans are a dying political party, shrinking to fewer and fewer gerrymandered localities, where they can concentrate their voting bloc. They can only maintain any power in the Senate (where largely empty Red States have the same power as densely populated Blue States) and with the electoral college. It will be a long slog to turn more and more purple states blue, and to isolate the Red States to a smaller and ultimately powerless contingent. The numbers are ultimately on the Democrats’ side.

fnfn

Shorten the pain, make one man one vote equal by changing the constitution.

DickD

Somewhere along the line, Republicans will wake up and change to survive.

fnfn

They have had their wake up call tweeted by Conner Don.

DickD

Good column, Jack. Back during Johnson'stime there were no tweets. Showing your ignorance daily can make it worse.

fnfn

[beam][beam][beam]

FCPS-Principal

The last paragraph says it all. We will survive the Baboon. We survived Johnson, Hoover (but barely), Nixon, Reagan and Dumbya. Though, I will admit, many did not survive Dumbya.

fnfn

[beam]

threecents

One of the most annoying things about Trump is his claims that he is the best president since Lincoln, rather than the worst since Johnson.

fnfn

[beam]

Thewheelone

Well done, Mr. Topchik. I might add that Tennessee bumpkin Johnson's only achievement, was crawling out of a bottle long enough to become Abraham Lincoln's vice president, ensuring him some much needed southern votes.

awteam2000

Not to be out done, with the resignation of Kirstjen Nielsen, Trump has set a record for White House staff turnover, for cabinet turnover and now for the highest turnover within a single department. Over 50 resignations or firings in two years. Meanwhile spending over 100 million in tax payer dollars on 183 visits to golf clubs since the inauguration, with evidence of playing golf on at least 85 visits. Trump takes time for over 30,000 tweets. He still finds time to come up with derogatory nicknames and insults for his rivals. How does he get it all done?

threecents

183 golf outings since his inauguration, yet when campaigning, Trump constantly complained about Obama playing golf and promised not to if he became president. As I wrote before, we have a bad sitcom character as president. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/12/us/politics/donald-trump-golf-obama.html

fnfn

"...bad sitcom character as president." [beam][beam][beam]

BunnyLou

The stench from the first paragraph was pure democrat party, so much so I couldn’t finish the LTE. I wonder how Topchic feels about about the press’s inability to be objective and their overall bias.

olefool

You call press coverage bias, we call it factual news reporting. Have another cup of Jim Jones favorite beverage, it will solve all your delusions.

jagman

There we have it. A liberal suggesting another comment section participant commit suicide. That says it all.

fnfn

He could not have meant suicide, because he wrote to cure delusions. That means mental health recovery!

Thewheelone

So angry, Bunny...

Samanthapowers

she follows the lead of the sham president, wheel. they're all angry and bitter at anyone or anything that goes against their extremely narrow world view.

Dwasserba

Last night on Bill Maher a guest presented Trump as a folk hero, and how folk heroes don't have to meet the usual standards of behavior.

fnfn

That is why they cannot think straight.

DickD

You have my deep sympathy, Bunny. Funny Bunny.

hayduke2

Bunny - NONSENSE

fnfn

Comparing the democrat party to today's is as ignorant as to comparing the republican to trump's party today.

public-redux

I think everyone agrees Hannibal Hamlin would have been better.

niceund

I love reading cartoons in the Sunday paper.

des21

Sane Jack, different day.

fnfn

Freudian slip told the TRUTH from the spirit of truth within. Do more self-forgiveness to find sanity.

threecents

Awesome. Des was probably hoping nobody would notice. But who hasn't made a slip like that now and then? We should be able to delete our posts - if only to correct grammatical errors.

fnfn

agree!

secpol1970

Self inflicted? Are you that dense? You leftsts (and yes we can safely assume you are) won't admit that he did win fair and square but wanted a mental midget tha stole the DNC nomination from another far left loon. You and the rest of the dems determined that orange man bad and that he must go. You should be ashamed of writing this piece of garbage.

olefool

"Win fair and square"??? Not so much.. You think it's fair that Russians spent so much time and money to get him elected, that there was voter obstruction carried on by republicans in several states that has been documented??

Samanthapowers

in the minds of the dumpsters, ole, those are alternate facts. the truth scares them.

fnfn

TRUTH heals and is funny, but you have to be open-minded to heal.

fnfn

And our Constitution is RIGGED to give extra power to cows over people.

fnfn

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

Samanthapowers

wake up and smell what you are shoveling. your comments are laughable for both their willful ignorance and defense of an orange stain. he belongs in prison.

llrowse

I truly hope that you don’t see life through the ugly lens which you present in your written comments.

fnfn

too upset to be clear? what is don...?

DickD

Spoken like a true lemming.

hayduke2

TDS on display - Trump Defense System

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