I’ve figured out what “covfefe” means. It means we’re screwed.
President Trump posted a mysterious tweet including a the non-word “covfefe” last night. Then he asked us to figure out the its true meaning. The meaning is clear: we must no longer take seriously anything this president says.
Here’s the Tweet the president sent at 12:06am.
Covfefe is not a word. It’s a mistake. But the tweet remained on the president’s account until around 6am, when someone deleted it. Trump replaced it with this:
Who can figure out the true meaning of “covfefe” ??? Enjoy!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 31, 2017
I accept the challenge. I will tell you the word’s true meaning.
Is it fair to criticize the president for a typo?
Donald Trump is not the first president to effectively make up a word.
Warren G. Harding’s campaign slogan in 1920 was “A return to normalcy.” At the time, normalcy was a rarely used word (“normality” is more common), but Harding turned it into a common one.
George W. Bush, famous for his malapropisms, at once time claim that someone “misunderestimated” him.
But while these words may not be common, at least you can tell what they are supposed to mean. What is “covfefe?”
Perhaps it seems trivial to you quibble about a president’s typo. If this was the first sloppy mistake that Trump had made, I’d agree with you. (If Ted Cruz, John Kasich, or Hillary Clinton were president, we would not be having this discussion, because this tweet would be a rare and unprecedented mistake.)
But this isn’t the first word Trump has screwed up. On December 17, he said a Chinese action was “unpresidented.” He claimed the Obama administration went so low as to “tapp” his phones in Trump Tower.
On May 18, he tweeted this:
With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign & Obama Administration, there was never a special councel appointed!
He means counsel (a lawyer or prosecutor), not “councel” or as he previously tweeted, “council” (a group of people in authority, which is not the same thing). Per Merriam-Webster:
counsel: ⚖ a lawyer appointed to advise and represent in legal matters
council: an assembly or meeting for consultation or discussion
— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) May 8, 2017
Forget the typos. This president makes mistakes all the time. In a press conference, he said he got the largest electoral college win since Reagan (he didn’t). He revealed an intelligence source to the Russians.
And he constantly flip-flips on “facts,” declaring that NATO is obsolete, then it isn’t, and that China is a currency manipulator, then it isn’t.
He even contradicts his own spokespeople. After Press Secretary Sean Spicer told the media that Trump fired FBI director Comey because of a report from the Justice Department, Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt that no, he was going to fire Comey anyway.
The president’s words are now irrelevant
Here’s what the word “covfefe” means: It means “I am a crazy person.”
Everything that this president says or does is a first draft. Courts rejected his sloppy first-draft travel ban. The FBI rejected his assertion that Obama tapped his phones. After the House of Representatives passed a version of the American Health Care Act, and the Senate rejected it and decided to start over, Trump tweeted this:
I suggest that we add more dollars to Healthcare and make it the best anywhere. ObamaCare is dead – the Republicans will do much better!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 28, 2017
No one knows what it means. The White House budget proposes cuts, not adding dollars to healthcare. Republicans are not cheering about adding money to healthcare.
No president is in command of every fact about government or policy. In the case of past presidents like George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, advisors kept them focused on policy and moving in a consistent direction — and maintained discipline on messages. But as Journalism professor Jay Rosen explains, there is no “White House” in this administration.
The whole notion of “the White House” as an actor depends on people speaking for the president. If they can’t, then there is no White House.
— Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu) April 13, 2017
This President is not a master manipulator of media. He is a wacko with little grasp of reality that says the first thing that comes into his mind. That is the meaning of covfefe. It’s a variant of “crazy”.
What this means for us
Unfortunately, being a wacko and tweeting made up words are not grounds for impeachment. And there is no chance of the Vice President and a majority of the cabinet invoking the 25th Amendment and removing the president for incompetence.
Republicans in Congress have done the math and determined that they are more likely to get their tax code changes, Supreme Court nominees, and conservative policies with this batshit president in office than to go through with impeaching him. Impeachment would be lengthy and messy, would anger Trump loyalist voters, and would do nothing to restore the reputation of Republicans that this president has created.
So, here’s what to do:
- Treat public statements by Trump as “for entertainment purposes only.” Trump statements are as meaningless as “covfefe.” They shift constantly, they have nothing to do with reality, and their only purpose is to get a rise out of the electorate. Coverage of those statements is irrelevant as well.
- Watch the hands, not the mouth. The executive orders matter. They actions by Congress matter. Congress already knows Trump is an easily manipulated buffoon — but the legislation they pass has long-term effects. The Legislative Branch has power. The Judiciary has power. And watch, as well, the activity by executive departments, such as Jeff Sessions’ decision to push for stricter sentencing for federal crimes. What Trump ends up doing about the climate change accords matters. What he says, doesn’t.
- Be prepared for the U.S. to be isolated. It’s not a coincidence that after meeting with Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel says that Europe can no longer rely on the U.S. No world leaders will treat Trump as dependable, because no one knows what he will do next. Russia will pursue its momentary advantage and Israel may enjoy having a warmer relationship, but the rest of the leaders in the world are smart. They know better than to trust this guy.
- Watch the “deep state” deploy its secret weapon. The government is made up of career employees and bureaucrats. Much of what they do stays the same from one administration to the next. But they don’t like a president they can’t trust. So expect government institutions, from the Justice Department to the CIA to the states, to use their most potent weapon against Trump. That weapon is inertia. Change requires people to commit, and these workers will not commit to a president who makes no sense.
- Push for a change in who’s in charge. Undoing Trump is more important than anything else, because a president can commit our armed forces, destroy our standing in the world, and gut our future. The people who voted Trump in thought that anything was better than Hillary Clinton and the status quo. They were wrong. Anything is better than a president whom no one can trust. Even if you hate Pence, a rational Pence is safer than an irrational Trump. In the unlikely event that impeachment hearings happen, support impeachment. Elect democrats. Force change.
I would rather have a president I understand, even if I strenuously disagree with them, than one we cannot trust. Because as things stand now, our future is covfefe.
Odd that in a post initially focused around the typos of others, there would be a typo in the post.
To “Uncle” Fester above- Josh averages about two typos a week. He also has an enormous amount of material to read through daily to get fodder to write a daily blog and to have something substantial and interesting to write about, not just issue a blog due to an obligation to send one out daily. I’d chance to say that he reads and analyzes more material in a day than you or any of the rest of us read in a month.
David, thanks for defending me, but Bill is right. I accept all criticism regarding typos. They are the bane of my existence.
I wrote a post about how to catch them (https://bernoff.com/blog/13-proofreading-hacks-based-psychology-reading) and these tricks have reduced, not eliminated, my typos. But I still wish I were better.
That said, “covfefe” is not a typo. It is not a word. And I am not the President of the United States. The president should do better. Typos in my posts do not make that any less true.
Bill’s inconstructive comment is referring to “the its true meaning” I think.
“Russia … and Israel … , but the rest of the leaders in the world are smart”.
I’d like to point out that the leaders of Russia and Israel are pretty smart, too. You probably disagree with their values and choices (I do!) – but there is no doubt that they are highly intelligent and effective. And smart.
Did not mean to imply that the leaders of Russia and Israel are not smart. I think they are very smart. They don’t trust Trump either, I’m sure, but they’re willing to support a momentary lean in their direction.
President Eisenhower was remembered for giving us the word nucular- when he meant nuclear.
“Watch what we do, not what we say,” Nixon’s first Attorney General, John Mitchell, advised the media in 1969. The advice today would go, “Watch what we trample, not what we Tweet.”
Alas, I think the true meaning of “covfefe” is that our Commander in Chief is nucking futs.
Look, I agree with the premise of this piece, and I’m terrified by this president, however even though it is funnier to suggest the word is without context, it is clear that Trump was intending to write “coverage”. Yes, he then either passed out or lost interest, equally scary as having just made up a word, but you can’t really say “What is “covfefe?” Getting from “…erage” to “fefe” on a qwerty keyboard is not far fetched with stubby fingers (and if you were going to misspell the word as “coverege”, as he likely was going to do!).
I also agree that a president (and his minders…should he have them!) should adhere to higher standards. However, I would also expect a professional writer to adhere to higher standards than someone like me, since writing is his profession. As Mr. Fester noted, it is ironic for a writer to complain about sloppy writing while including (at least five) obvious typos in his piece. At first, I thought the typos were on purpose, which would have been quite funny. But then I was disappointed; they weren’t consistent enough to suggest humor (too bad!), and I don’t buy the busy argument. I believe it’s just sloppy and a bit arrogant: “what I have to say is so important, I can’t be bothered to proof my piece.” Typos detract from your message, especially when your message is against sloppy writing and thinking. Is it OK for a plumber if he leaves you with “only” a few leaks in your plumbing job, or a dentist if he misses “only” one of your cavities?
If I ever type “covfefe,” I’m blaming the cat.
As an advocate for rational thinking and objective observation, I agree with most of this analysis. Trump IS a loose cannon, no doubt about it. Even given that, your fifth and final bullet point left me dismayed.
Adherence to strict Party lines and ideologies is part of what got us into this mess to begin with. Rather than encourage readers to “elect Democrats” (as conservative writer are encouraging readers to “elect Republicans”, might I suggest that people use the same methods WOBS uses to decipher the true meaning of public statements to “elect Trustworthy People”, no matter their Party affiliation?
Electing only those candidates who are members of the Party we identify with is the quickest way to continue dividing and disenfranchising the electorate and the nation as a whole. There are plenty of corrupt, self-serving, incompetent Republicans… and also plenty of the same type wearing a Democrat pin. The only cure for this is to do your homework, research the people you vote for, and choose the best one… whether they wear red, blue, or some other color.