Editorial: Trump’s M.O.: “I Can’t Help It If You Didn’t See Me”

When a reporter followed up with Donald Trump about his reason for not wearing a face mask during his visit to a Phoenix, Arizona, facility that is producing face masks, Trump said this in response:

“I can’t help it if you didn’t see me.”

Though it was a response to the reporter’s observation that at no time did anyone see Trump wearing a face mask at Honeywell, the Arizona plant, “I can’t help it if you didn’t see me,” sums up so much about Donald Trump’s sleight-of-hand mode of operation.

“I can’t help it if you didn’t see me” is a petulant adolescent’s response. It’s an easy cover for a lie that implies that the failure in the situation is the other person’s for not seeing him do what he was supposed to do (but almost certainly didn’t).

Regarding the face mask observation, Trump claimed that while visiting the plant, he “had a mask on for a period of time.” He also said (despite signage that said, “Please wear your mask at all times,” and “Face mask required in this area”) that facility leaders told him he wasn’t required to wear a mask.

“I had it on backstage,” he said. “I can’t help it if you didn’t see me.”

That response demonstrates how easy it is for Donald Trump to tell any lie, stretch any fact, deny any allegation, and then discredit those who challenge him. It adeptly characterizes the gaslighting that has been the hallmark of Donald Trump’s presidency, nay, Donald Trump’s entire career:

“(My inaugural crowd) looked like a million-and-a-half people” and “went all the way back to the Washington Monument.” (I can’t help it if you didn’t see that.)

There was nothing wrong with that call to the Ukraine. “It was a perfect call.” I had a perfect call with President Zelenskiy. (I can’t help it if you didn’t see me.)

“The (COVID-19) tests are perfect!” “There are plenty of ventilators.” (I can’t help it if you don’t see any.)

“I always knew the coronavirus would be a pandemic.” (I can’t help it if you didn’t hear me say that.)

“But Your Highness, you have no clothes!” (I can’t help it if you don’t see them.)

In July of 2018, Trump told supporters at a convention in Missouri, “Just remember—what you are seeing and what you are reading is not what’s happening.”

Some found this declaration to be frighteningly similar to a line from George Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984: “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”

Our president’s adolescent gaslighting tactics are obvious and unsophisticated to most of those outside his base. To the members of his base, however, they are somehow nothing more than reassurances that their leader is the only one they can trust.

People who can be so easily and readily manipulated with adolescent tactics will have no defense against more sophisticated Orwellian tactics. In the novel, 1984, “Big Brother” kept an eye on citizens’ every move, banning individuality, personal freedoms, and independent thought. Trump’s base purports to hold all of those ideals as sacred. They are the ones who cry, “my liberty!” and “stop the tyranny!” perhaps the loudest.

Ironically, as they willingly overlook Donald Trump’s gaslighting and continue to look to him as their source of truth, they are the ones who are empowering the would-be authoritarian who wants to squelch their free and open society.

If one day, Trump’s base were to discover the depth to which they have been duped while being stripped by this administration of important freedoms and protections, they will have to accept Trump’s defense: “I can’t help it if you didn’t see me.”

President Trump claims he wore mask at Arizona factory, as he backtracks on coronavirus task force | The Telegraph {2020-05-07]

Rep. Says Trump Is Gaslighting The Nation Over Coronavirus | NowThis
[2020-04-21]

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