US President Donald Trump gestures as he speaks during a working dinner with European business leaders during the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting...
NICHOLAS KAMM

Trump’s three magical words: ‘People don’t realize’

Donald Trump’s references to common facts that he assumes people aren’t aware of are always entertaining.

The hosts also asked Trump to weigh in on a series of supportive tweets by Kanye West on Wednesday. He attributed West’s comments to dropping black unemployment, and suggested that the GOP could win over African American voters. “People don’t realize, if you go back to the Civil War the Republicans really did the thing. Lincoln was a Republican,” he said, citing an extremely well-known fact.

This comes a week after the president endorsed diplomatic talks on the Korean peninsula, explaining, “People don’t realize that the Korean War has not ended.”

In nearly every instance, when Trump says, “People don’t realize” – or its rhetorical cousin, “A lot of people don’t know that” – what he means is, “I recently learned some new detail, and since I wasn’t aware of it, I’m going to assume most people didn’t know it, either.”

There are exceptions. Sometimes, for example, he’ll use the phrase to bolster a detail that’s false, but which he wants to be true. As a candidate, he insisted that “nobody knows” that the murder rate is at 45-year high. Of course, in reality, “nobody knows” that because it’s not true. 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.

Other times, the president is more philosophical. “People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why?” he asked a year ago this week.

But more often than not, he assumes Americans simply aren’t aware of fairly common details. Last summer, for example, Trump declared, “France is America’s first and oldest ally. A lot of people don’t know that.” Before that, 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 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.”

Milbank wrote that more than a year ago, and the Post had a related update last week:

According to Trump, most people don’t know that there’s more than one Air Force One; that the heroin epidemic has ravaged New Hampshire; that the Empire State Building was constructed in less than a year; that universities “get massive tax breaks for their massive endowments;” that Clemson University is “a great academic school, one of the top 25;” or that nonprofit organizations and churches are barred from endorsing political candidates.

Trump’s lessons are often accompanied by raised eyebrows, widened eyes and a “gee whiz” look that suggests perhaps the nation is witnessing the president’s education in real time.

I have a hunch that’s because we are witnessing the president’s education in real time.

Donald Trump

Trump's three magical words: 'People don't realize'