Donald Trump was indicted in the state of New York for falsifying business records to cover up a much larger crime — illegally influencing a presidential campaign and election in his favor.
He’s the first president, current or former, to be indicted. That, and his being impeached twice, will assure his place in history. But truthfully, more than half of all presidents should have, at the very least, received indictments.
Quite honestly, prisons across the country should be filled with their ghosts.
Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Jackson, Van Buren, Harrison, Tyler, Polk, Taylor, Johnson and Grant all should have received prison time for enslaving African persons, in addition to other crimes including rape, genocide and continental imperialism.
Johnson’s predecessor Abraham Lincoln is responsible for subjecting Black people to cockamamie colonization schemes in Haiti and Panama—led by sketchy characters—in addition to the mass execution of Dakota warriors and paying reparations to enslavers from Washington, D.C.
The unlawful overthrow of the Hawaiian government happened under the leadership of Grover Cleveland. Theodore Roosevelt is responsible for the atrocities committed in the Philippines and also the unlawful occupation of countries in Latin America. William H. Taft oversaw the execution of Afro-Cubans seeking human rights in 1912 using the Platt Amendment as justification. Woodrow Wilson upheld Jim Crow (as many of his predecessors did), defended the Ku Klux Klan, promoted the Lost Cause with his validation of the racist “The Birth of a Nation,” and occupied two sovereign nations on the island of Hispaniola.
Calvin Coolidge, a supporter of eugenics, mishandled the relief efforts of the Great Mississippi River Flood of 1927, where he — vis-à-vis Herbert Hoover, who led the effort — failed to address the needs of Black people. As president, Hoover — a supporter of the Lily White movement — ignored pleas from Black people for relief from the Great Depression and racial violence.
FDR’s New Deal programs denied federal assistance to Black people. The Pentagon Papers were enough to hold Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson responsible for the crimes of manufacturing the Vietnam War, in addition to the various unlawful and covert sanctioning of regime changes via the CIA worldwide under their watch, as well as COINTELPRO from 1956 to 1971.
Nixon, the architect of the southern strategy, was of course guilty of covering up the Watergate office break-in. Ronald Reagan’s crimes range from Reaganomics to the Iran-Contra Affair. The latter was responsible for the flow of crack cocaine into Black communities. This was known at the highest levels of the Reagan administration and subsequent administrations, including George H.W. Bush, who was elected president after Reagan’s two terms, who sold his non-role in the Iran-Contra scandal as well as he did that his bag of crack cocaine was purchased in Lafayette Park.
Bill Clinton signed into law the largest anti-crime bill in history, mandating life imprisonment without parole after three drug trafficking convictions, funding $30 billion for state and local prison grants and expansion of state and local police forces. He also signed into law a welfare reform bill granting power to the states, which harmed poor and/or Black households. What’s often overlooked is Clinton’s signing of the Telecommunications (Telecom) Act of 1996 which helped perpetuate the slow death of Black radio.
George W. Bush falsely claimed there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and unlawfully entered and controlled Iraq and Afghanistan. He also mishandled the relief effort of Hurricane Katrina, overseeing the displacement of Black people. Barack Obama sanctioned drone strikes that killed innocent people as well as sanctioning the assassination of a head of state, Muammar Gaddafi.
I could say more…
But the point isn’t that Trump should face prosecution and potential jail time. Rather, the same treatment should have met previous presidents. Then again, why should anyone expect their government to hold itself accountable for its past?
Rann Miller is an educator and freelance writer based in New Jersey. His Urban Education Mixtape blog supports urban educators and parents of children attending urban schools. He is the author of “Resistance Stories from Black History for Kids” (Bloom Books for Young Readers) released on March 7. Follow him on Twitter @RealRannMiller.