What Trump does during his 'executive time'

Article Image

Since the day after the 2018 midterm elections, President Donald Trump has spent around 60% of his scheduled time in unstructured "executive time," according to a report from Axios.

Posted: Feb 5, 2019 11:00 AM
Updated: Feb 5, 2019 11:00 AM

Someone who is close enough to possess President Donald Trump's personal schedules, and wise enough to be appalled, has offered the world a new view of the Narcissus of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue: 51 private schedules provided by an unnamed White House source — an accounting of "nearly every working day since the midterms."

Filled with hours of so-called "executive time," the calendars reveal a President devoted to studying himself in the reflecting pool of the media and poll numbers, but not so engaged in the business of the American people.

First published by the inside-Washington website Axios, the leaked calendars suggest Trump is generally so busy with personal matters -- styling his hair, maybe? applying self-tanner? watching "Fox and Friends"? -- that he doesn't get to the office before 11 a.m. Once there he meets frequently with press aides -- who, it is safe to assume -- will help him study his own image and polish it for political and personal purposes.

Axios reporters Alexi McCammond and Jonathan Swan note — and say White House sources confirm -- that the President could be busy in ways that aren't noted on his calendar. He may be holding meetings off-schedule to avoid leaks from West Wing staffers. However, even with these considerations, Trump seems to keep an exceedingly light White House schedule, especially compared with President Barack Obama, who sometimes worked to the early morning. And George W. Bush typically was in the Oval Office before 7 a.m., had his first meeting at 8:15 a.m. and scheduled his days in 10-minute blocks, until quitting time at 5:30 or 6 p.m.

Presidential travel days aren't quite so relaxed, but generally speaking, if his schedule is actually what the Axios documents suggest, then it is less crowded than a first grader's. Consider the first calendar in the Axios file. Three full hours of something called "executive time" -- let's call it ET -- started Trump's day on November 7. He finally held a single Oval Office meeting at 11 a.m., according to the schedule published by Axios. This was followed by lunch, and then three more hours of ET. Like a lazy student's term paper, the schedule is typed with big margins and lots of double spacing, but even then doesn't fill half a page.

The calendar for November 8 looked busier but still included more than four hours of alone time and called for less than three hours of serious in-office work. The rest of the day, as scheduled, was devoted to ceremonies. A week later, on November 15, the Axios documents indicate nearly four hours blocked out for ET before Trump was scheduled to get to the office. By 5 p.m., said the schedule, he would have snagged nearly two more hours of alone time.

DJT sure likes his ET.

And the way his staffers talk about executive time would suggest it's normal for top-level leaders to block out great swathes of the day for unorganized activity.

In fact, the term was coined by the White House and given meaning by spokeswomen Sarah Sanders, who has suggested the President uses these periods for high-level consulting. That would apparently include the time the President uses to conduct spontaneous tours of the West Wing, including -- according to a new book by ex-White House aide Cliff Sims -- directing visitors to the place where President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky may have had sex.

In "Team of Vipers," Sims wrote that Trump explained to one visitor, "I'm told this is where Bill and Monica" but didn't finish the sentence. Sanders hasn't commented on that particular nugget but has said that "the president is proud of the White House and its rich history" -- and has pushed back against the idea that Trump's executive time indicates he is disengaged.

This argument hasn't won the day. The BBC, in a recent article, calls ET a new euphemism—thanks to the Trump administration coinage-- for more common types of dawdling including "social media use, calling friends and napping."

We do know the President is devoted to tapping out messages for his followers on Twitter and that he enjoys calling longtime friends on his personal phone. As recently as October, intelligence experts warned that foreign powers were almost certainly listening in on Trump's calls, which involve lots of gossip, advice-seeking, and requests for feedback on his performance. The President apparently uses his interlocutors as a mirror. In December some of his friends told The New York Times that the President seems more isolated and still "views the presidency through the lens of a television showman."

The showman in Trump is the one who speaks of a candidates' announcement of a presidential bid as an "opening act" and posts an old video of himself singing in a farmer's costume to note the recent signing of a farm bill. Ever eager to spin criticism, Trump's defenders, including Newt Gingrich, used news of the President's light work schedule to compare him to Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan, who led their countries while getting plenty of rest.

On the day of George H.W. Bush's state funeral, Trump attended -- working until about 1 p.m. -- and then appeared to take the rest of the day off: four hours and 55 minutes of ET were blocked out for the remainder of the afternoon, according to the Axios documents. Another president might have invited his predecessors back to the White House. But Trump, who functions as an insult-o-matic when he speaks of other presidents, is the odd man out in this exclusive ex-presidents club. It's possible his ego couldn't abide more time with the other presidents, who had generally ignored him at the service.

But don't take my word for all this. Peruse the documents released by Axios and you see the schedule of a man about as engaged in the presidency as an actor trying to create the impression he really is the commander in chief.

On one level this is disconcerting. One wants to ask: Shouldn't he be paying more attention to the job? But on the other hand, it may be a good thing that he's not fully engaged. As a part-time President, Trump has just given us a painful, longest-ever government shutdown. He has given us fruitless negotiations with North Korea, craven kowtowing to Vladimir Putin and high levels of public division and anxiety.

Imagine the problems he could create if he really applied himself.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 48524

Reported Deaths: 2698
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion11682684
Lake5180242
Elkhart330146
Allen2798132
St. Joseph196466
Cass16389
Hamilton1563101
Hendricks1410100
Johnson1288118
Porter73237
Tippecanoe7268
Madison65964
Clark65544
Bartholomew58644
LaPorte58026
Howard57757
Kosciusko5494
Vanderburgh5486
Marshall4904
Noble48228
Jackson4723
LaGrange4709
Hancock45035
Boone44543
Delaware44550
Shelby42625
Floyd38144
Morgan32931
Monroe30028
Grant29526
Montgomery29420
Clinton2892
Henry27415
Dubois2736
White26510
Decatur25032
Lawrence24625
Dearborn23823
Vigo2358
Harrison21822
Warrick21829
Unassigned193193
Greene18932
Miami1832
Jennings17611
Putnam1698
DeKalb1624
Scott1627
Daviess14317
Wayne1406
Orange13623
Perry1299
Steuben1292
Franklin1248
Jasper1212
Ripley1177
Wabash1122
Carroll1102
Fayette997
Newton9810
Starke933
Whitley925
Gibson812
Huntington812
Randolph794
Wells731
Fulton721
Jefferson722
Jay680
Washington671
Pulaski661
Knox640
Clay604
Rush583
Adams501
Owen491
Benton480
Sullivan451
Posey420
Brown391
Spencer381
Blackford372
Crawford320
Fountain322
Tipton321
Switzerland270
Parke230
Martin220
Ohio170
Vermillion140
Warren141
Union130
Pike110

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 57956

Reported Deaths: 2927
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin10410429
Cuyahoga7883373
Hamilton6019198
Lucas2752302
Marion273438
Pickaway219741
Summit2143206
Montgomery203427
Mahoning1832232
Butler159944
Columbiana130760
Stark1123112
Lorain103567
Trumbull96770
Warren86021
Clark7669
Delaware58215
Fairfield57216
Tuscarawas56710
Belmont54922
Medina52332
Lake50018
Licking49312
Miami46631
Portage44258
Ashtabula43544
Wood42851
Clermont4146
Geauga40742
Wayne36351
Richland3455
Allen32141
Mercer2829
Greene2589
Darke25125
Erie24422
Holmes2363
Huron2202
Madison1978
Ottawa14923
Sandusky13614
Crawford1355
Washington13520
Putnam12815
Ross1273
Hardin12312
Morrow1161
Coshocton1112
Auglaize1074
Monroe8917
Jefferson882
Union861
Muskingum831
Hancock791
Hocking788
Guernsey743
Preble731
Lawrence710
Williams712
Clinton680
Shelby684
Logan621
Fulton610
Ashland591
Athens591
Carroll593
Wyandot596
Brown571
Defiance513
Knox511
Fayette460
Highland451
Scioto410
Champaign401
Perry351
Van Wert350
Seneca342
Henry300
Paulding250
Adams241
Jackson230
Pike230
Vinton222
Gallia181
Harrison121
Meigs120
Morgan110
Noble110
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Scattered Clouds
91° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 97°
Angola
Clear
90° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 91°
Huntington
Scattered Clouds
93° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 98°
Decatur
Broken Clouds
90° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 91°
Van Wert
Broken Clouds
90° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 91°
Few Storms Tuesday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events