The man in the White House is melting down, like the second scoop of vanilla ice cream left sitting on the nightstand. At 12:06 am, Donald Trump tweeted: “Despite the constant negative press covfefe… and that was all. Radio silence descended on Trump’s Twitter account.
Of course, midnight Twitter had a ball with it. But Trump supporters insisted that the president either did it intentionally, to mess with the haters, or was just showing his trademark disdain for conventions like correct spelling and complete sentences. Kayleigh McEnany, one of CNN’s appalling Trump defenders, inanely tweeted, “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!” Comedian Travon Free won the night with “Ask your doctor if Covfefe is right for you,” above a photo of a hot couple about to get it on. Around 6 am, someone deleted the “covfefe” tweet from Trump’s account.
I mean, we know where Trump was probably going—“covfefe” is pretty easy to translate as “coverage.” He was readying another whiny, self-pitying tweet about his press coverage; it’s just another day ending in “Y.” But the fact that the tweet trailed off in mid-sentence, ending in a misspelling, was another sign that something is wrong in the White House. It’s not just one tweet, of course. You could maybe excuse “covfefe”: He’s tired. He just got back from an eight-day trip. The time zone shifts messed with him. He needed to use a golf cart while his G7 counterparts strolled around Taormina, Italy. We all have days like that. Maybe his second scoop of ice cream kicked in.
But this isn’t the first time Trump’s Twitter feed went haywire. I could pick dozens of examples, but to me the scariest was the day he went after the FBI director he’d just fired, James Comey, and warned him not to leak damaging information about their conversations because there might be “tapes.” It looked like witness intimidation. That was worse than covfefe. I sat watching Twitter, wondering how far he would go before someone stopped him. Death threats? He stopped there, just as he stopped after “covfefe.” Whew.
There is growing evidence that Trump is slipping. CNN reported Tuesday night that his friends and aides say he is growing angry and isolated. “I see him emotionally withdrawing. He’s gained weight. He doesn’t have anybody whom he trusts,” one “confidante” told Gloria Borger (note to my confidantes: Please tell me, not the national media, if you notice that I have problems like this). He’s even angry at son-in-law and close adviser Jared Kushner, who assured him he could fire Comey without political blowback. Now that Kushner’s been named as a target of the FBI investigation, and papers are reporting that he tried to set up his own secret, secure communications channel with Russian officials before Trump’s inauguration, we see why he was so anxious to fire Comey. But of course the move backfired, and Trump, Kushner, and other campaign and White House officials are now at the mercy of special counsel Robert Mueller.
Trump’s first foreign trip, which hustlers tried to spin as a great success, was a disaster. In Israel, he wandered away from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looking utterly bewildered (Netanyahu also looked confused, until someone nudged Trump back for their photo-op.) Then he blurted out, unasked, that he had never “mentioned the word or name Israel” during the conversation with Russian officials in which he reportedly divulged highly classified information about ISIS. No one had ever accused him of doing so; his outburst seemed to confirm that he had, in fact, shared the information with the Russians. He alienated many of his NATO and G7 counterparts, which might have been a deliberate move so that he could ride in his own private golf cart. Or maybe the golf cart is more evidence of Trump’s decline. Or maybe no one wanted to walk with him. Who knows?
Scholars and psychologists are weighing in on the evidence of Trump’s apparent “cognitive decline,” at least. On the respected science and medicine site Statnews, Sharon Begley wrote a widely read piece interviewing linguists, neurologists, and psychologists about what Trump’s limited speech patterns might indicate. “They all agreed there had been a deterioration, and some said it could reflect changes in the health of Trump’s brain,” she wrote. Begley continued:
In interviews Trump gave in the 1980s and 1990s (with Tom Brokaw, David Letterman, Oprah Winfrey, Charlie Rose, and others), he spoke articulately, used sophisticated vocabulary, inserted dependent clauses into his sentences without losing his train of thought, and strung together sentences into a polished paragraph, which—and this is no mean feat—would have scanned just fine in print. This was so even when reporters asked tough questions about, for instance, his divorce, his brush with bankruptcy, and why he doesn’t build housing for working-class Americans.
The experts Begley consulted also acknowledged “that the same sort of linguistic decline can also reflect stress, frustration, anger, or just plain fatigue.”
We’re not going to get the answers right now, but few people with any kind of power even seem to be asking these questions. Shamefully, congressional Republicans continue to furrow their distinguished Caucasian foreheads and express “concern,” while doing absolutely nothing to rein Trump in—or even ask what’s going on.
Meanwhile, heinous but deliberate policy emanates from the White House almost daily. Wednesday comes news Trump plans to yank the United States out of the Paris Accords on climate change, even though much of the nation’s business leadership has urged him not to do so. On Tuesday we learned he—or someone—is preparing to erase the contraception mandate from the Affordable Care Act, giving companies wide latitude to opt out. The Washington Post reports that “the Trump administration”—no mention of who within it—is dismantling civil rights protections not just in the Justice Department, but in agencies from the EPA (no more “environmental justice” initiatives!) to the Labor Department (let’s get rid of those pesky assholes who investigate discrimination in federal contracting, shall we?) These are far-right extremist actions. The contraception mandate move, in particular, seems like the work of Vice President Mike Pence. My point is: Work is getting done, but we don’t know who’s in charge.
Maybe Trump knows all of this. Maybe his crazy tweets provide some cover for the way his administration is quietly, determinedly unraveling the advances of the Obama presidency. Maybe he’s trying to distract us from the advancing Russia investigation. But he should remember, even as he tweets: The covfefe is often worse than the crime.