Covfefe: A Trigger Word for Political Humorlessness
Early this morning, President Trump took to Twitter to deliver this message to his 30+ million followers: "Despite the constant negative press covfefe".
Covfefe? Yes, covfefe. What was obviously a botched tweet by Trump stayed on Twitter for hours, inspiring a plethora of mostly good-natured jokes and social-media spoofs from both sides of the political aisle. In a way, it seemed to bring people together (even fierce partisans) for a brief, innocent laugh.
1980's pop-music icon, Richard Marx, even got in on the fun, tweeting: "I've waited 25 years to tell you who killed Mary in my song, 'Hazard.' It was.... #covfefe"
Trump's tweet was eventually deleted, with the president (or perhaps one of advisers) tweeting this message from the same account: "Who can figure out the true meaning of "covfefe" ??? Enjoy!"
It was a funny response that seemingly displayed a hint of self-deprecation — something we don't typically identify with President Trump. But not everyone was laughing, including some in the media.
At a White House press briefing this afternoon, a reporter (in all seriousness) posed this question to Press Secretary, Sean Spicer: "Do you think people should be concerned that the president posted somewhat of an incoherent tweet last night, and that it then stayed up for hours?"
Now, there's a good case to be made that President Trump's tweeting, in general, has been a concern. His impulsiveness and inaccuracies on Twitter have gotten his administration into needless hot water on multiple occasions. But a botched tweet — one that he likely started to type, decided not to follow through with, and accidentally hit the submit button for — is supposed to be an area of legitimate concern?
Spicer answered the reporter's question appropriately: "No."
But the reporter persisted (no pun intended): "Why did it stay up so long? Is no one watching this?"
The logical response, of course, would have been for Spicer to say something like, "It was a flubbed tweet. Anyone who has spent any time on Twitter has done the same thing. The president went to bed afterwards, and no one believed that 'covfefe' was a national security crisis worth addressing immediately."
Unfortunately, Spicer didn't say that. He instead decided (or perhaps was instructed) that he needed to preserve an ongoing theme with this White House: that the president doesn't make mistakes. Ever.
"The president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant," said Spicer, his tone sober. The suggestion was that Trump's tweet was some kind of deliberate, inside joke. Not a simple mistake, heaven forbid.
Spicer's reply elicited understandable laughter from other reporters in the room, lighting a fire under them that led to a flurry of follow-up questions.
"What does it mean?" one reporter shouted.
"What does the president mean?" another one asked.
"What is covfefe?" a third demanded.
Who needs Saturday Night Live sketches when the ridiculous, real-life relationship between the White House and the media provides this kind of material?
This eye-rolling exchange is the kind of thing that happens when you have a news-media intent on making the administration look bad, and an administration intent on making itself look even worse.
Can't either side just let us have a little bipartisan fun with covfefe, and move on?