I’m not a fan of headlines that go “X happened and the internet can’t deal with it”, but on 31 May 2017, something happened that I would begrudgingly accept fits that bill. The 45th president of the United States appeared to fall asleep mid-Twitter rant, leading to the most memorable typo of all time:
More has been written about this typo than is strictly necessary (with special dispensation for Nicole’s excellent piece about the pronunciation of words coined online), but there’s a lot more to come as Democratic representative Mike Quigley introduced the COVFEFE Act. As per usual with these bills, that’s a rib-tickling acronym: it stands for “Communications Over Various Feeds Electronically for Engagement.”
It’s a stupid name for quite a sensible bill. Here’s the problem: unlike every president before him, Trump has a habit of announcing policy on Twitter. To be entirely fair to Trump, only one of the previous 44 presidents had a Twitter account, but during that time a precedent was set: Tweets made from the @POTUS Twitter account belong to the public record, not the president.
The trouble is that most of Trump’s tweets come from his own Twitter account: @realDonaldTrump (a baffling username, when he also appears to own @DonaldTrump, which directs people to @realDonaldTrump). That means that the policy tidbits he drops on his personal account is not covered by the current laws. The COVFEFE Act would change that and would make a public archive of Trump’s tweets – which seems a touch unnecessary when he very rarely deletes tweets, including the 53 he made before seeking office denying climate change was a thing. Ironically, the only one I’m aware of him deleting is the one in which he coined the term “covfefe”.
“In order to maintain public trust in government, elected officials must answer for what they do and say; this includes 140-character tweets,” Quigley explained in a press release. “President Trump’s frequent, unfiltered use of his personal Twitter account as a means of official communication is unprecedented. If the President is going to take to social media to make sudden public policy proclamations, we must ensure that these statements are documented and preserved for future reference. Tweets are powerful, and the President must be held accountable for every post.”
Will it happen? Probably not. A spokesman for Quigley said that the proposed bill has several Democratic sponsors, but nobody from the Republican side. Perhaps Trump should just go for the not-at-all-legally-binding disclaimer many put on their Twitter bios: “Views are my own, and do not represent (all) the citizens of the United States.”