In politics, how does one know they've been played?
Consider the instructive case of “covfefe,” a word supposedly concocted in the brew of deficiency that comprises President Trump’s spelling & typing skills. In the early morning hours of Wednesday, a time when tweets fluttering forth from Trump’s Twitter are often at their most id-driven, Trump wrote:
That was it. No follow-up, no punctuation, no explanation. Obviously, he meant “coverage.” But not only did Trump walk away from a demonstrably nonsense tweet, he later taunted anyone who dared ignore said eyebrow-raiser by tweeting out this little extra:
I think one way to know if you’ve been played is to look at an IRL example of getting played, and investigate the similarities.
For instance: as a freshman in college, I dated a sophomore who lived in a different dorm. He was cute, and talked a lot which made conversation stress-free (win), and planned out a series of impressive dates. Still, something felt off.
He’d call at odd times, insist we should hang out soon, and then proceed to be too busy to do so for days at a stretch. He smiled a little too much, seemed way too comfortable with the frequent schmooze fest. I had that scene from Father of the Bride in mind all the time, where Steve Martin’s character meets his daughter’s fiancé for the first time, and shares the two words that come to mind: “brown” and “nose.”
The “covfefe” is the cover-up. It’s the totally irrational but nevertheless proffered argument made by that sophomore guy about how busy we both were, how stressed out by finals... How he was so much more than I had even yet begun to grasp, and how desperately I'd regret losing all he had to offer.
When I tried to break things off, as I did on two separate occasions, he went into full salesman mode and managed to talk me out of it. I don’t **think** this would be effective now, but at 18 I was way too easily convinced that whatever lack of feelings I felt for the dude I was dating, he probably knew better what I’d be missing out on if I sauntered away from such an obvious catch.
And then a different sophomore happened to see us talking together in my dorm’s lobby, perhaps holding hands or something. And then reality got not at all politely right up in my face.
The different sophomore happened to be the roommate of this guy’s girlfriend.
I got played. (And “Everybody Plays the Fool” also got played, on my car cassette/discman combo for several weeks afterwards.)
Because a player’s gonna play. A hater’s gonna hate.
And a conman’s gonna con.
Back to #covfefe. It was with mounting dread that I watched Trump for 20 months change the election storyline any time he wanted. If negative press broke on him — his sordid past with women, the mountains of lawsuits against him, his broken contracts, his violent rallies — Trump just changed the topic.
Snapped his tweet fingers, and suddenly, kazam! The media’d be all a-twitter with some new piece of B.S., some mini-scandal built in 140-character insult blocks.
His idiotic suggestion that Ted Cruz’s father played a role in JFK’s assassination.
There’s nothing sacred to Trump, save perhaps his money. (At one rally, he bragged, "I grab and grab and grab. You know I get greedy. I want money, money." And I don’t remember many eyes batting, not much. He hasn’t yet liquidated his Trump Organization. And he has billed the GOP for his own events, because they were hosted at his resorts. But I digress.)
Whenever there’s a Trump fit of rage, especially if it happens on Twitter, it’s important to peruse around the wider world of headlines and ask oneself: What else, exactly, is going on here?
For one, there’s the Paris climate agreement, an international effort to reduce mankind’s impact on the global environment.
Trump is signaling the United States will be leaving that deal behind. I don’t know if we still are, but certainly America has long been seen and treated as the leader of the free world. If we walk out of this deal, there is no reason for China and India not to do the same. And if the three largest populations and biggest polluters say “forget it” to taking care of this planet — the home of humans, which is to say, our home — then the Paris Climate Deal will simply cease to matter.
Keeping the Trump Organization close, signing the AHCA, abandoning the Paris climate agreement — these are the real apples of Trump’s eye.
They’re the “girlfriend” in this story, the big secret that Trump can’t have curious third parties looking too much into, digging too much up on.
The “covfefe” is the cover-up. It’s the totally irrational but nevertheless proffered argument made by that sophomore guy about how busy we both were, how stressed out by finals, how little time we’d really given our relationship yet. How he was so much more than I had even yet begun to grasp, how I would so desperately regret losing all he had to offer.
All distraction. All a convenient ruse.
And yes, I know this is a somewhat tortured example. I acknowledge we’ve met the end of useful correlations here.
The point is, if the media doesn’t stop flying off the wall every time Trump does or says something ludicrous, then we’ll just keep sucking the oxygen out of the stories that matter.
Because there’s only so much headspace any one person has for political stories before mentally pleading, “Megyn Kelly, take me with you to daytime television!” (Is that just me?)
“Covfefe” is a nonexistent word that Trump left on his Twitter feed, quite possibly on purpose.
It’s idiotic, it’s also funny, and it doesn’t have to be full-out ignored, per se. But quanitity of coverage matters.
Because if that’s all people pay attention to, then it’s not just a really naïve 18-year-old freshman who gets played.
The whole world is on the hook here for Trump's decisions and behavior.