On Tuesday night, President Donald Trump got out his cell phone and started to complain about the media. It’s not an unusual thing for the president to do.
Instead of typing “constant negative press coverage,” he ended up complaining about “constant negative press covfefe” — and then hit “tweet” before completing his thought.
This is not an unusual thing to happen on the internet.
But because this is the president of the United States — and because the fact that the president of the United States makes a habit of getting out his phone and whining that the media is treating him unfairly, on Twitter, long after many Americans have gone to bed — it made a big splash.
It seems obvious enough that the president meant to complain about press coverage rather than press covfefe. The letters f and e are right next to the letters r and g on a QWERTY keyboard. And it’s a pretty good bet to assume that any given tweet from the president of the United States is a complaint about the media, these days.
There were dumb jokes. There were memes. Two characters, both claiming to be named Covfefe, argued in the president’s @-replies about which of them was the true inheritor of the title (and which deserved to seek the orb).
It’s late-night Twitter, after a month of scoops and scandals that has left the political world exhausted.
It would have been totally respectable for President Trump to admit the error and take the L. Let he who has never accidentally hit enter in the middle of a message, or tweeted a typo, cast the first stone.
But instead, the president and his allies tried to turn covfefe into some sort of symbol of his magnetic charisma — something that puzzled the fake-news elites and thrilled his fans.
When he finally deleted the original covfefe tweet on Wednesday morning, President Trump tweeted this instead:
Who can figure out the true meaning of "covfefe" ??? Enjoy!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 31, 2017
Trump campaign surrogate Kayleigh McEnany went further, portraying covfefe as an “intentional” sign that the president is “just like us”:
Covfefe - our President is human. Hilarious! Funny to watch left go nuts. An intentional "dog will chase the tail" tweet! #Covfefe— Kayleigh McEnany (@kayleighmcenany) May 31, 2017
Covfefe was not poll tested or focus grouped. Another reason our @POTUS is simply great! He's human. He's real. He's just like us!— Kayleigh McEnany (@kayleighmcenany) May 31, 2017
And asked about it at a press briefing Wednesday, press secretary Sean Spicer implied it was some sort of inside joke that only the president and his closest friends understood:
Asked about the “covfefe” tweet, Sean Spicer says: “The president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant."— Matt Viser (@mviser) May 31, 2017
This is absurd. It’s a sustained performance of bullshit. It’s exactly what we’ve come to expect from this administration.
It wasn’t inherently undignified for the president to tweet about “constantly negative press covfefe,” any more than it would have been to tweet about “constantly negative press coverage” to begin with.
But President Trump is simply unable to admit error, ever. He and his defenders appear to have a compulsive need to turn every impulsive action the president takes into some well-considered step toward a master plan. And that, more than the errors themselves, is what makes it hard to take anything this White House says seriously.