During his first month in office, President Donald Trump has proven to be as polarizing as commander-in-chief as he was as a presidential candidate. Given this polarization, the McConnell Center this week hosted a forum that posed the question, “Does it really even matter who’s president?”
The event, the second in the center’s “Promises and Perils of the American Presidency” public lecture series, featured UofL alumna and University of Virginia government professor Barbara Perry, who said that the first month of a Trump presidency has clearly shown that not all presidents are alike.
“In 2008 I was asked to examine whether or not it mattered who was in the White House because maybe it was thought that it didn’t matter because all politicians are alike,” Perry said. “I find it fascinating because, in part, Trump won the election because he played off of that, saying that all politicians are bad or crooked and that he wasn’t one of those. But it does matter who’s in the office. That’s been made clear through the first few weeks of that presidency and it has mattered throughout our history.”
Perry, the director of Presidential Studies and co-chair of the Presidential Oral History Program at UV, says a president’s success depends on a combination of factors.
“You also have to surround yourself with good people. George Washington had Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State and Alexander Hamilton as the Secretary of the Treasury,” Perry said. “It’s helpful to note that many presidents who were strong leaders were not afraid to surround themselves with the best and the brightest.”