The part-time presidency of Donald Trump
Note to self: When it’s time to sit down and talk with my bosses about my next steps as an opinion editor and all-around-columnist guy, I must make sure to negotiate in plenty of “executive time.”
That gem comes to us courtesy of one Donald John Trump, who we learned saunters into the office at 11 a.m most weekdays, all the better to squeeze in some time to be the Leader of the Free World.
But ... and this is a big but ... that’s only after spending the first three hours of his day, from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., watching TV, firing off deranged tweets, and gabbing on the phone with friends.
These revelations came from the online news organization Axios, which revealed that the amount of time Trump actually spends on president-y things has shrunk since he took office a year ago this month.
Here’s the relevant part, from reporter Jonathan Swan:
“Trump has his first meeting of the day with Chief of Staff John Kelly at 11am. He then has “Executive Time” for an hour followed by an hour lunch in the private dining room. Then it’s another 1 hour 15 minutes of “Executive Time” followed by a 45 minute meeting with National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. Then another 15 minutes of “Executive Time” before Trump takes his last meeting of the day - a 3:45 pm meeting with the head of Presidential Personnel Johnny DeStefano - before ending his official day at 4:15 pm.”
I’d call those bankers’ hours, but most banks are open on Saturday these days.
And, as Swan reports, that’s far later than former President George W. Bush, who reported for duty at the Oval Office at eye-wateringly early 6:45 a.m. And, as Slate reports, President Barack Obama used to get in a work-out before arriving at the Oval between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m.
Look, there’s no doubt that being president is a grueling job, and a largely thankless task. All you have to do is look at the reverse Dorian Grays that most presidents do between the time they assume and leave office.
And you could maybe forgive Trump for wanting to squeeze in a little “me-time” before he has to decide on the utter nonsense that’ll be fed to Sarah Huckabee Sanders for that day’s White House press briefing; or fine-tune the belligerent rhetoric he’ll spew in the direction of North Korea.
But as The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent suggests, Swan’s report “firmly [quantifies] the disturbing amount of time that Trump spends on such non-official pursuits as hyping the latest Fox News report or prosecuting personal feuds with, well, everyone.
And as much as the White House has pushed back against some of the admittedly dubious claims in the latest White House tell-all by journalist Michael Wolff, Swan’s report further underlines the deep unseriousness with which Trump approaches the most consequential (not consensual) job on the planet.
I know, we shouldn’t be shocked at this, but it’s still a little eye-opening (if sadly unsurprising) to learn that Trump spends his entire morning on tasks almost entirely unrelated to the affairs of state. Most of us, when we picture the president, picture him, brow furrowed, poring over the deep issues of the day. And, not as we also now know, in bed by 6:30 p.m., devouring a cheeseburger.
As Sargent reports, Sanders didn’t exactly deny Swan’s report, saying that Trump’s time “in the morning is a mix of residence time and Oval Office time but he always has calls with staff, Hill members, cabinet members and foreign leaders during this time.”
She continued, improbably, that “the president is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen and puts in long hours and long days nearly every day of the week all year long. It has been noted by reporters many times that they wish he would slow down because they sometimes have trouble keeping up with him.”
And that is partly true because Trump has hours of unstructured free time during the day, when he should, rightfully, be working, to stoke public anger by taking to Twitter to drop rhetorical neutron bombs.
It is difficult to imagine Trump’s voters putting up with that lack of work ethic from any other chief executive.
On the campaign trail last year, for instance, Trump routinely mocked Obama for playing endless rounds of golf. Never mind the fact that as president, Trump has spent more time on the links than his Democratic predecessor.
And, as Sargent further reflects, the news kneecaps Trump’s campaign promises that he would rarely take a day off from being president.
The Saturday Night Live skit, if it is not already written, is close to done.
Copyright 2017 John L. Micek.