Donald Trump has been president for 99 days. And, in an interview with Reuters Thursday, it sounds like he misses the days when he, well, wasn’t president.
“I loved my previous life, I loved my previous life. I had so many things going,” Trump told Reuters. “I actually, this is more work than my previous life. I thought it would be easier.”
Then, later: “I do miss my old life. This – I like to work. But this is actually more work.”
That sentiment is, in a word, strange. For a few reasons.
It’s absolutely true that all presidents express – privately and then, eventually, publicly – some level of longing for the life they left behind or the life they will return to. But that usually happens after, say, seven or eight years in the White House. Not after 99 days.
The truth is – and even Donald Trump might admit this in his most candid moments – that he had almost zero idea of what being president would entail when he started running for the office almost two years ago now.
When he entered the race in June 2015, there was no reasonable expectation that he would even sniff the top tier of the Republican field. He was seen as a curiosity, a celebrity calling everyone’s bluff who said he never could, should or would run.
Throughout the campaign – even as he improbably rose to the top of the GOP field and stayed there – Trump would always tell his crowds that being president would be easy, and that he would solve the problems of the country so quickly they wouldn’t believe it.
“Together we’re going to deliver real change that once again puts Americans first,” Trump promised a Florida audience last October. “You’re going to have such great health care, at a tiny fraction of the cost—and it’s going to be so easy.”
(Nota bene: Republican attempts to even hold a vote on legislation that would reform and replace the Affordable Care Act died Thursday night. For the second time in as many months.)
It’s, of course, true that no president is ever, really, ready for the job when they come into office. But Trump’s understanding of the office – and of the political process was minuscule. He had never run for or served in any elected office. (Say what you will about the relative inexperience of George W. Bush and Barack Obama before ascending to the presidency but they had been elected and served as governor and senator, respectively.) Trump’s experience in politics, by contrast, amounted to giving money when someone asked him to. And that’s about it.
Which is how someone who has been president for the last 99 days can repeatedly express amazement that the job is hard – far harder than he expected – and wax nostalgic about his old life.
Trump’s old life was, without question, easier than his current one. He starred in a reality TV show. He was the brand manager of a company built around his ostentatious personality. He did, basically, what he wanted to do when he wanted to do it.
Now his life is totally and completely proscribed. He has very little agency in all of it. He goes where he is told when he is told. And much of what Trump does on a daily basis is a radical departure from the “being Donald Trump” role that he had been playing for decades prior to winning the White House. He has to confront problems – the Middle East, North Korea, healthcare – in which he can’t just snap his fingers, make a decision and move on. Nothing – or almost nothing– is black and white. It’s all shades of gray. It’s, um, hard.
Given all of that, it’s easy to see why Trump might pine for the simpler life he led prior to being elected president. It’s just very, very odd he decided to say that publicly less than 100 days into his administration.