The presidential learning curve has been steep at times for Donald Trump, America’s first amateur leader. We’ve all been witness to the president learning things that many of us have known for quite a while.
This awkward process of discovery has, however, produced a phrase of underappreciated beauty: “A lot of people don’t know that.” These seven words are Trump’s way of saying, “I just learned something new, and I’m going to assume others are as ignorant as I am.”
Today, for example, Trump held a joint press conference alongside French President Emmanuel Macron, where the U.S. president declared, “France is America’s first and oldest ally. A lot of people don’t know that.” If you watch the brief clip, you’ll note that the first sentence was part of the prepared text, but the second sentence was ad libbed.
Trump probably wouldn’t admit this out loud, but I’m reasonably sure he said this because he considers this rather obvious historical detail – already familiar to much of the country – to be an interesting bit of trivia that only recently came to his attention.
It’s reminiscent of remarks Trump delivered in March when he said, in reference to Abraham Lincoln, “Most people don’t even know he was a Republican. Right? Does anyone know? A lot of people don’t know that.”
Referring to the president as “Captain Obvious,” the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank noted soon after just how frequently Trump reflects on what he assumes others don’t know.
That Bill Clinton signed NAFTA: “A lot of people don’t know that.”
What a value-added tax is: “A lot of people don’t know what that means.”
That we have a trade deficit with Mexico: “People don’t know that.”
That Iraq has large oil reserves: “People don’t know this about Iraq.”
That war is expensive: “People don’t realize it is a very, very expensive process.”
Whether he thinks “people” are incredibly uninformed, or whether he’s simply oblivious himself, will remain a subject of some debate.
Occasionally, though, Trump will reflect on things “people don’t know,” because the purported fact is simply wrong.
The Republican has argued, for example, that “nobody knows” that the murder rate is at 45-year high. Of course, in reality, “nobody knows” that because it’s not true. As Milbank’s column added, Trump also believes that “a lot of people don’t know” that U.S. taxes are the highest in the world, which would be fascinating, if his point weren’t completely wrong.
In other words, the president is fascinated by details that are already widely known and details he made up.