The ghost of James Buchanan, 15th president of the USA, has asked the world to be patient and see how things pan out with Donald Trump. Buchanan, who served one term from 1856 to 1860, failed to prevent the slide to civil war due to his own inertia and pigheaded lack of vision. Most analysts have ranked him plum last of the 43 presidents to date in almost every respect.
‘Four years is a long time, people can change,’ Buchanan’s disembodied spirit said, while wandering disconsolately around a graveyard in rural Pennsylvania and saying ‘wooooo’ for no obvious reason. ‘For instance, I came into office an arrogant, bumbling fool who couldn’t compromise with anyone, but I might have grown into a towering figure who resolved the great contemporary issues of slavery and Westward expansion.’
‘OK, so I didn’t actually do any of those things – I’m just saying I MIGHT have done. By the same token, Donald MIGHT stop re-tweeting the last thing someone said about him, abusing his predecessor to stir up the kind racist knuckle-draggers that would have appalled even the Confederate leaders, or issuing a Moo-slim ban and pretending it isn’t. Just give him a chance. I mean, at least don’t impeach him before he has had a chance to cause a nucular holocaust because there’s a decent chance he wouldn’t actually do that, right?’
While some historians have excused Buchanan’s failure by pointing to the intractable issues dividing pre-Civil War America, most agree that his particular mix of obstinacy and a lack of fundamental principle made the split more likely. According to Jean Baker of Goucher College, ‘In his betrayal of the national trust, Buchanan came closer to committing treason than any other president in American history. Until now, probably.’
Describing her verdict as ‘a bit harsh’, Buchanan’s restless shade noted that he had only apparently come ‘close’ to treason but had not actually done it. ‘I can say a few things in my defence,’ he added. ‘I was unmarried, so I didn’t have any hot daughters to make pervy remarks about. I never fell out with Mexico or the Ottoman Empire. And it was only a civil war I failed to stop. Think on.’
‘No, no ulterior motives for saying all this. Why would you think that?’