When former Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton promoted a letter signed by 750 historians calling for President Donald Trump’s impeachment, presidential historian and New York Times bestselling author Craig Shirley responded, saying the letter expresses political passions, not facts.
On Tuesday, Clinton posted the following tweet touting the historians’ letter:
“More than 750 historians "devoted to studying our nation's past," including Ron Chernow and Robert A. Caro, have signed a letter supporting the president's impeachment and removal.”
In comments provided exclusively to CNSNews.com, Shirley reacted to the letter, calling it short-sighted, agenda-driven and antithetical to the principles of historical scholarship:
“Historians need to be governed by their judgement and not their passions. It is our duty to take the long view and not be caught up in the intramural skirmishes of the day.
“Historians must be guided by the facts and the Democrats never presented the facts of their case against Trump. Therefore, their letter is political, not factual, meaning their liberalism guided them rather than their scholarship.”
Historians, Shirley says, should be “observers and recorders of history and not participants.” Thus, he says, they must delay passing judgment on Trump’s presidency until sufficient time has passed to allow them to consider all the facts objectively:
“We need to let the ground cool and the smoke to clear before we begin evaluating the Trump presidency in the bright light of the facts.
“I was not a Trump supporter in the primaries of 2016 and I remain very skeptical today, but I want to reserve judgement before rendering my ultimate opinion on the Trump presidency and its place in history.
“I was not asked to sign the letter, but if asked I would have politely said, ‘No,’ as I think we need to be observers and recorders of history and not participants.”
Historians, especially liberal ones, have been too quick to judge presidents in the past, Shirley says, citing presidents who were viewed harshly while in office, but rose in esteem over time:
“I would simply say to my brother and sister historians that they need to remember it took 150 years for a decent biography to be written on Andrew Jackson and now he is considered by some to be a good-to-above-average president despite being censured by the Congress.
“When Harry Truman left office, his approval rating was 22 percent. Now, two generations later, he is regarded in the near-great category.
“Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan were also derided by liberal historians during their time in office, but who are now reevaluating their opinions of both and both have gone up in the estimation of the professional history industry.
“In fact the only president who was regarded as great when he was president was George Washington.”
President Andrew Jackson was censured by the Senate in 1834, but the censure was expunged in 1837.