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Analysis and perspective about what's happening in the political realm.

‘Covfefe’: A Typo? A Conspiracy? A Metaphor for America?

“What is ‘covfefe’?”

That was the voice of a White House reporter, on Wednesday afternoon, asking a question of White House press secretary Sean Spicer on behalf of herself and many confused Americans. Her question was practical and philosophical and full of frustration: What, truly, is “covfefe”? Was it the word “coverage,” autocorrected? An errant Starbucks order? An English verb of Old Norse origin, meaning “to back out of the Paris climate accord”? A coded—pardon me, a covded—message from the Illuminati, its true meaning known only to Robert Langdon and/or the innards of a Jeffersonian codex? 

Yeah, it was probably a typo. That is the simplest answer, the Occam’s razor answer. When the president sent a tweet out to his 31 million followers late on Tuesday evening—“Despite the constant negative press covfefe,” the message read in its entirety—the posting seemed the result of that most common of internet snafus: sending a thing out before the thing is ready to be sent. The president, very likely, was writing something about his negative press coverage, and mistakenly hit a wrong button, and then mistakenly hit “Tweet.” Thumbus interruptuswho among us, etc.

Trump seemed to admit...

As Mueller Takes Over Trump Probe, GOP Leaders Hold Their Fire

Rep. Mike Simpson was a dent­al stu­dent in the early 1970s when Pres­id­ent Nix­on’s ad­min­is­tra­tion spiraled in­to chaos, so he can un­der­stand twice over why get­ting Re­pub­lic­ans to com­ment on re­ports of im­pro­pri­ety by Pres­id­ent Trump can be like pulling teeth.

“Politi­cians like me were stand­ing around say­ing, ‘Hey, Nix­on’s OK; he didn’t do any­thing,’” Simpson said of the Wa­ter­gate era. “Then the next day something else hap­pens and pretty soon you’ve got an ava­lanche of stuff.”

Be­fore Wed­nes­day’s De­part­ment of Justice an­nounce­ment that former FBI Dir­ect­or Robert Mueller had been named spe­cial coun­sel to handle the in­vest­ig­a­tion of Trump’s al­leged ties to Rus­sia, Re­pub­lic­an lead­ers on Cap­it­ol Hill had re­acted meekly to the pre­vi­ous bomb­shell re­port—that Trump had asked then-FBI Dir­ect­or James Comey to stand down on in­vest­ig...

Census Director’s Resignation Could Affect Control of Congress After 2020

John H. Thompson, the director of the U.S. Census Bureau, just resigned amid a funding fight over the 2020 Census.

Since it comes at the same time that the president fired the director of the FBI, why should anyone care about the resignation of just another Washington “bean counter?"

This bean counter, whose name is likely unfamiliar to the vast majority of Americans, is actually one of the most important people in determining whether Democrats or Republicans control Congress. The census has a significant impact on political representation and how federal money is distributed. Moreover, how hard the director fights for more funding helps determine the accuracy of the census.

As someone who has spent decades deeply involved in surveys, I understand the importance of ensuring an accurate count of the population. Without it, every fact about this nation’s population – from the percent of women giving birth to the percent of elderly people dying – is suspect.

Why we have a census

The primary source of United States demographic data is the population census, which is done in the spring of all years that are evenly divisible by 10.

The U.S. Constitution provides the legal basis for conducting...

Is the Watergate-Comey Comparison Simply a Way to Score Partisan Points?

The election of Donald Trump, and the early days of his presidency, have driven many Americans to rummage through history in search of context and understanding. Trump himself has been compared to historical figures ranging from Ronald Reagan to Henry Ford, and from Andrew Jackson to Benito Mussolini. His steps have been condemned as unprecedented by his critics, and praised as historic by his supporters.

To place contemporary events in perspective, we turned to a pair of historians of the United States. Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. He is the author, most recently, of The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society. Morton Keller is a professor emeritus of history at Brandeis University. He has written or edited more than 15 books, including Obama’s Time: A History. They’ll be exchanging views periodically on how to understand Trump, his presidency, and this moment in political time.

—Yoni Appelbaum


Julian Zelizer: Ever since President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, many historians have been asking whether it’s now safe to say that this scandal is starting to look a lot like Watergate. There are...

'A President Who Doesn't Play by Any Rules'

President Trump’s abrupt firing Tuesday evening of FBI Director James Comey sent American media and lawmakers scrambling to make sense of what had happened. The termination came as the FBI continued to investigate the possibility of collusion between people involved in Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia, and it hit front pages across the nation

The story had international reverberations as well, in countries ranging from America’s allies to its adversaries, on and off the front pages. In Germany, Der Spiegel, like some U.S. commentators, dubbed the event “The Tuesday Night Massacre,” in reference to former President Richard Nixon’s order to fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox during the Watergate scandal. (That incident was a “massacre” because it resulted in the resignation of the attorney general and his deputy, both of whom refused to carry out the firing on Nixon’s behalf. Tuesday, Comey alone was fired.) The weekly magazine noted that, while the White House denied allegations the move was related to Comey’s role overseeing the investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election, “few believe it.” German tabloid Bild also likened the incident to what happened under Nixon, calling the event “so...