Americans don't understand President Donald Trump. They frequently misinterpret his words and tweets. When Trump makes a statement or sends a tweet, we don't seem to know what he really means even though he just said what he really means. He even confuses his own aides when they tell us that Trump didn't mean what he said, even though he keeps repeating, days and weeks later, what they said he didn't say.

Needless to say, this is very confusing for ordinary Americans who read and listen to Trump's words as if they mean something. They usually don't, and many Americans are just figuring this out.


For example, a few weeks ago Trump tweeted at 6:35 in the morning that he "just found out that Obama had my 'wires tapped' in Trump Tower." According to his White House spokesman, Sean Spicer, Trump didn't actually mean that Obama tapped the wires in Trump Tower when he tweeted "Obama had my 'wires tapped' in Trump Tower." According to Spicer, the president used quotations marks around the words "wires tapped" and that words within quotation marks can take on multiple meanings.

Magic quotation marks — guess I missed that lesson in English 101.

Trump's defenders are saying that only the most partisan person would think that Trump was actually wondering how low had President Obama gone to tap Trump's phones when he tweeted, "How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phones." Trump, the same morning, tweeted that Obama was a "Bad (or sick) guy!" for tapping his phone. This time, however, he didn't use the magic quotation marks.

Trump talk is hard to understand. But we all know that Trump tells it like it is, except when he doesn't, and then it's our fault for not understanding what he meant to say after he just said it.

Here is another example of the mainstream media misinterpreting the actual words coming out of Trump's mouth as if they are real and have meaning. During an interview with "60 Minutes" after being elected president, Trump said that "everybody's got to be covered" and that "the government's gonna pay for it." He had just been asked about the health care plan being developed by Republicans in Congress to replace the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. He went on to say, "We're going to have insurance for everybody. There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can't pay for it, you don't get it. That's not going to happen with us."

After that interview, the press reported that Trump said that everybody has to be covered and that the government's going to pay for it. There they go again — reporting what Trump says in his own words. It should have been obvious that when Trump said that "everybody's got to be covered" that there was a standard error of measurement of 24 million people in the word "everybody." Also, to be fair, when Trump said that "the government's going to pay for it" he did not say what "it" was. Perhaps he was thinking Band-Aids or Q-tips.

Americans should have learned by now how to interpret what Trump says or tweets. For example, when Trump said he would show us his taxes if he became a candidate for president, he didn't mean that he would show us his taxes if he became a candidate for president. And he didn't. So when Trump said that he would show us his taxes if elected president, it is confusing why so many Americans thought that he would show us his taxes after he was elected president. After all, there is a clear pattern here that should be easy for us to figure out. If we can't figure it out, perhaps we are too partisan to see or accept this pattern.

Americans are slow learners. But don't worry about it. Trump understands. In fact, he counts on it.

Tom Zirpoli writes from Westminster. He is program coordinator for the human services management graduate program at McDaniel College. His column appears Wednesdays. Email him at