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

“This Isn’t a Banana Republic,” Except That Trump Thinks It Is

In the week after the U.S. Senate’s acquittal of Donald Trump following his impeachment trial, Trump has begun taking victory laps, and it doesn’t appear he’ll stop anytime soon. In just seven days, he’s given a series of gloating speeches, made copious inflammatory tweets, ordered the firings of several government officials he perceives as having crossed him, and has even influenced the Department of Justice to change the prison sentence of one of his cronies.
Several GOP senators had assured us that the House’s impeachment of him in December would be enough to teach him not to do corrupt things ever again, saying that removal from office for his offenses was not necessary. And the White House insists that Trump’s subsequent actions are not in retaliation for what he sees as unfair treatment by Democrats and their operatives who he thinks are out to get him simply by telling the truth.
Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) was one of the Senators who justified their vote to acquit Trump by saying they believed Trump had learned his lesson. After witnessing the last seven days, however, Collins remarked that she should have used the word “hoped” instead of “believed.”
When Trump himself was asked what he had learned from the impeachment proceedings, he immediately fired back, “Uh, that the Democrats are crooked, they’ve got a lot of crooked things going. That they’re vicious. That they shouldn’t have brought impeachment. And that my poll numbers are 10 points higher because of fake news like NBC, which reports the news very inaccurately—probably more inaccurately than CNN if that’s possible.”
Yes, the lesson Trump has learned from his impeachment and subsequent acquittal is that he can say and do whatever he wants, without consequence. Furthermore, the GOP will not only back him up, they’ll vilify anyone who gets in his way.
Trump has continued to demonize Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, the one Republican who voted not to acquit Trump on the first article of impeachment, Abuse of Power.
He has suggested that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who led the U.S. House impeachment proceeding against him, be removed, calling her, as well as Rep. Adam Schiff, head of the House Intelligence Committee, “vicious and horrible people.”
Just two days after his acquittal, Trump removed Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman from his post as Director for European Affairs for the United States National Security Council. Vindman’s twin brother, Yevgeny, a National Security Council attorney, was removed from his job, as well. Both were publicly escorted out of the White House as if they were being fired for disciplinary reasons.
Trump has since implied that the U.S. Army might take disciplinary action against Alexander Vindman. Vindman was a witness in the House impeachment proceedings against Trump, and, under oath, gave his damning account of Trump’s call to Ukraine that sparked the impeachment inquiry.
“That’s going to be up to the military. We’ll have to see. But if you look at what happened, I mean they’re going to, certainly, I would imagine, take a look at that… I obviously wasn’t happy with the job he did,” Trump said, after earlier saying he probably had never met Vindman…didn’t really know him.
Trump has demonstrated a desire for vengeance against anyone who opposes him or doesn’t reinforce his world view, and he expects that the rest of his government, including the military, will back him up.
A U.S. Department of Defense official has since said that there is no planned investigation into Vindman.
Americans had been wondering how Trump’s supporters would spin Trump’s apparent retaliation against Alexander Vindman. It didn’t take long to find out.
National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien told the Atlantic Council this week, “Number one, they weren’t fired. …Folks might think it feels that way, and, look, it’s great to work at the White House, and everybody wants to work at the White House, but there will come a time for all of us who work at the White House, including me, that (we) will leave the White House.” He then denied that the dismissals were in any way retaliatory.
Except that another witness in Trump’s impeachment hearing, Gordon Sondland, who also provided incriminating testimony about Trump’s actions toward Ukraine, was removed from his post as U.S. Ambassador to the European Union on the same day as the Vindmans’ departure.
An adviser to Trump told CNN that the firings of the major impeachment witnesses were meant to send a message that “siding against the President will not be tolerated. “…Flushing out the pipes,” said the adviser. “It was necessary.”
Siding with the president, no matter what, is apparently what is expected at the White House. It’s the new patriotism, according to the Trump Playbook.
In his defense of the abrupt dismissals of those who had crossed the president of the United States, Robert O’Brien added that the U.S. is “not some banana republic.”
That assertion is questionable, however, when one considers that Attorney General William Barr and others at the Department of Justice intervened this week to overrule and reduce the recommended prison sentence of former Trump advisor Roger Stone. In response, all four federal prosecutors who took the case against Stone immediately resigned or withdrew from the case.
Trump denies that he told Barr to change the sentencing. That may be technically true, though Trump lit up Twitter with complaints about Stone’s sentencing, calling it a “horrible and very unfair situation.”
Trump also withdrew his recommendation for a promotion of former U.S. attorney Jessie Liu. Liu headed the office overseeing the prosecution of Stone. But that’s probably just a coincidence.
In response, and not long after O’Brien’s declarations that we are not “some banana republic,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said, “Left to his own devices, President Trump would turn America into a banana republic, where the dictator can do whatever he wants and the justice department is the president’s law firm, not a defender of the rule of law.”

News Wrap: Impeachment witness Vindman removed from NSC post |
PBS NewsHour [2020-02-07]

Trump praises Barr for “taking charge” of Roger Stone case |
CBS Evening News [2020-02-12]