As I sat in a cheap plastic folding chair, sweltering with a hundred or so other reporters in the Rose Garden waiting for the president to come out and tell us how the Paris Climate accords were bad for our country, I heard more than a few of us rumbling about how they were going to add sunscreen to their expense account.
The thought had crossed my mind the president might be trying to sweat us out– the irony was not lost on me.
At that time, a Japanese reporter sitting next to me turned and asked if keeping us waiting was part of the President’s plan.
“He likes this attention, doesn’t he?” My Japanese colleague asked. I nodded my head and went back to wiping away the sweat while I soaked up sun and listened to the Marine Jazz Band playing. The guitar player was killing it and I was enjoying the respite until my Japanese colleague turned to me and asked, “What is this covfefe?”
“Huh?” I replied with a slight grin.
“Everyone in my country wants to know what is this Covfefe that the president tweeted?” he asked.
Of course, he was referring to the president’s strange tweet from the previous day and the equally strange, but ultimately funny, response Sean Spicer offered with a grin in the press room on Wednesday when he told us those who needed to know understood what the president meant.
“It means ‘plan’,” I said evenly.
The Japanese reporter nodded incredulously. “It seems his covfefe is to make us wait for him in the hot sun.”
A short time later, the President came out and told us the world wouldn’t laugh at us anymore. Seriously. He also told us he was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh. He also told us the Paris Accord “is less about the climate and more about countries gaining a financial advantage,” over the United States. He used to refuse to believe in climate change–now it’s just about the economy, stupid.
The president told us he’d still negotiate with the member countries of the Accord, though he didn’t explain how or why anyone would want to after he was publically denouncing them. And, adding insult to economic injury, the President of France came out on videotape and spoke in English, following Trump’s announcement, and encouraged those interested in clean industry to travel to France and be part of something great.
As I left the Rose Garden, I started thinking about the last time I asked a question that left me with the same feelings. I had asked Spicer if the President had any thoughts on the long term plans of our greatest adversary–Russia–and what the administration planned on doing about it. I was floored when Spicer brushed me off and as I walked away in the heat Thursday, it occurred to me my Japanese colleague was onto something.
Somebody really needed to study the President’s “covfefe.”
That’s when another reporter walked by and said, “It was like a reality show. He gathered us all together for a big, winning announcement and left without taking questions,” she said.
I nodded. “Were you the one who shouted at him if he believed in climate change?” She asked.
I was. Of course, he didn’t answer as he walked away and waved at us all. But, he did supply two White House officials who spoke to us on background later Thursday afternoon.
The pair of them tried to explain the president’s strategy. The first question I asked wondered what was the president’s plan to replace the Accords, since none had been spelled out. They said there were no pledges, no long-term plan and they didn’t want to give away the president’s negotiating strategy.
In other words, the president was winging it. In his desire to fulfill his campaign promises, he had no viable plan to replace the Paris Accords.
“This is one of the biggest problems I have working here,” a different senior White House official told me, on background. “We had no plan for health care replacement, we have no solution to replace the Paris Accords, and we have no real strategy for solving terrorism other than war with the terrorists. His daughter and (Steve) Bannon argued about whether we should even leave the Paris Accords.”
Apparently the president listened to Bannon on climate change. But neither one of them apparently came up with a new “Covfefe” to replace Paris.
It is the same with Russia. There is no plan–no stinking Covfefe. It is the same with most of the moves by the current administration and this has been what has kept most of the press concerned, more than any late night tweets.
Does the President of the United States have a strategy, an overall plan of action or a long-range goal? Or is it only the win of the moment, like we saw in the White House Rose Garden after the House passed a healthcare reform bill that will not pass the Senate without radical changes. We saw the absence of planning again in the heat on Thursday as the president withdrew from the climate accords.
The president’s entire administration strategy is best seen in how he handled the whole “Covfefe” event. He tweeted something disparaging the press–mistakenly using a word we all assumed to be “coverage,” then he erased that tweet and had Sean Spicer play it off.
It detracted from real events. The press ate it up and some actually believe he was speaking in code about terrorists.
“There are some of us who believe we are doing some good things and could do better if we’re given a chance,” my administration friend told me. “But the president likes to have people argue relentlessly and then choose a path. There is no overall strategy and that’s why there is so much disarray.”
More than one administration official I’ve spoken with believes there is nothing to link the president to collusion with Russia–but there are also a few who say they wish the president had learned something from the debacle. “Remember the scene in The Hunt for Red October when Fred Thompson tells Alec Baldwin that the Russians don’t take a dump without a plan?” I was asked. “Well, we wish our president at least had a plan,” I was told.
As he showed when announcing the country’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords, without a strategy–and only vague promises to Make America Great again – without understanding how innovation, science and education helped us become great–the president not only runs the risk of alienating a growing number of voters, but exposing himself as the fraud the Democrats believe him to be.
That brings to mind the other line from The Hunt for Red October that Fred Thompson gave us: “This business will get out of control. It will get out of control and we’ll be lucky to live through it.”
We definitely need a detailed covfefe.