When Donald Trump sat down with the New York Times last week, Maggie Haberman asked the president whether he might walk away from politics rather than seek a second term. Trump’s answer meandered a bit, before concluding, “I love doing it. I don’t know if I should love doing it, but I love doing it.”
It seems very easy to believe that he loves being president. Whether Trump loves doing the work that presidents are supposed to do is an altogether separate question.
With this in mind, Axios published an interesting scoop over the weekend.
A White House source has leaked nearly every day of President Trump’s private schedule for the past three months.
This unusually voluminous leak gives us unprecedented visibility into how this president spends his days. The schedules, which cover nearly every working day since the midterms, show that Trump has spent around 60% of his scheduled time over the past 3 months in unstructured “Executive Time.”
We’ve known for a while that “executive time” is the euphemism of choice in this White House to describe Trump’s many hours of down time, leaving the president to do as he pleases, including watching an inordinate amount of television.
Note, these private schedules don’t necessarily reflect a quiet part of the year, such as the time the Republican spends at a resort in August. Rather, they point to a three-month period in which Trump has experienced a significant cabinet shake-up, announced the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria, and shut down much of the federal government for five weeks.
Whether this dynamic is encouraging or discouraging – would Trump do more damage if he took his job more seriously? – is a matter of perspective. Either way, as we discussed a few months ago, presidential descriptions of all the “hard work” he does are very difficult to take seriously.
But while it’s important for the public to realize that this president just doesn’t seem to work especially hard, let’s not miss the forest for the trees: these disclosures are themselves emblematic of the deep dysfunction that continues to plague this White House.
In this case, someone – or some people – close to the president has so little regard for Trump, and is so eager to embarrass him at a difficult time, that he/she/they found it necessary to leak sensitive information to a reporter.
This sort of thing simply isn’t supposed to happen in a stable and functioning West Wing. The fact that the president avoids hard work is embarrassing; the fact that someone close to him wants us to know that Trump avoids hard work might actually be worse.
Postscript: Madeleine Westerhout, the director of Oval Office Operations, wrote on Twitter in response to the Axios report, “What a disgraceful breach of trust to leak schedules. What these don’t show are the hundreds of calls and meetings @realDonaldTrump takes everyday [sic]. This POTUS is working harder for the American people than anyone in recent history.”
First, if Trump is participating in hundreds of important meetings that are excluded from his official schedule, it raises the related question of why they’ve been left off the official schedule.
Second, if you genuinely believe this president is “working harder for the American people than anyone in recent history,” I have a giant border wall I’d love to sell you.