President Donald Trump is spending an increasing amount of his hours in the White House watching TV and tweeting, according to Axios, periods referred to on the official schedule by the delicious euphemism “Executive Time.”
“Trump’s days in the Oval Office are relatively short – from around 11am to 6pm, then he’s back to the residence. During that time he usually has a meeting or two, but spends a good deal of time making phone calls and watching cable news in the dining room adjoining the Oval. Then he’s back to the residence for more phone calls and more TV.”
Conservatives insist this is much ado about nothing. Presidents are always working, they argue. And why can’t it be a part of Trump’s job to watch TV and tweet?
“CNN horrified at Wolff book claim that Trump watches TV in residence & tweets for 3 hours every morning,” tweeted conservative commentator Ann Coulter. “I resent the idea that this is not ‘work.’” (One quick correction to Coulter: This is Axios reporting, not from Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury.”)
Sure – sort of.
Presidents never stop being president – not when they go on vacation, not when they spend time holed up in the White House residence watching TV and tweeting. I totally agree with that idea.
And, how Trump chooses to divvy up his day is, again, largely a personal choice. As Swan notes in his piece, George W. Bush was a very early riser and got to the office before 7 a.m. Barack Obama liked to work out before heading in at 9 or 10 a.m. If Trump likes starting his work day with a few hours of TV and Twitter then a) more power to him and b) Same!
Trump has repeatedly gone out of his way to make clear that he watches very little television. During his Asia trip this past fall, Trump was adamant about his viewing habits:
“And believe it or not, even when I’m in Washington and New York, I do not watch much television. I know they like to say — people that don’t know me — they like to say I watch television. People with fake sources — you know, fake reporters, fake sources. But I don’t get to watch much television, primarily because of documents. I’m reading documents a lot, and different things. I actually read much more — I read you people much more than I watch television.”
The facts belie that assertion, however. Take Trump’s last few days – and tweets – for instance.
On Monday morning, Trump tweeted this: “African American unemployment is the lowest ever recorded in our country. The Hispanic unemployment rate dropped a full point in the last year and is close to the lowest in recorded history. Dems did nothing for you but get your vote! #NeverForget @foxandfriends.”
That tweet followed a segment on African American unemployment on “Fox & Friends” in the 8 a.m. ET hour.
On Sunday morning, Trump tweeted this: “Jake Tapper of Fake News CNN just got destroyed in his interview with Stephen Miller of the Trump Administration. Watch the hatred and unfairness of this CNN flunky!”
That tweet came hard on the heels of a contentious interview between Tapper and Trump senior adviser Miller. (Trump has said in the past that he doesn’t watch CNN.)
There are dozens (hundreds?) more examples just like these, all of which make a simple point: Trump watches a LOT of TV. How much, exactly? This revealing piece in The New York Times about Trump in the White House put it this way: “People close to him estimate that Mr. Trump spends at least four hours a day, and sometimes as much as twice that, in front of a television, sometimes with the volume muted, marinating in the no-holds-barred wars of cable news and eager to fire back.”
Not that there’s anything wrong with that!
The issue is not that Trump watches lots and lots of TV. It’s that he says he doesn’t watch lots of TV. This is, by the way, the same issue with Trump and golf. He can golf when he wants! But, that a) he criticized Obama for playing far less golf than him and b) his staff is unwilling to acknowledge that he is actually playing golf makes his golf playing more problematic.
Television has always been essential to Trump. It’s been a constant companion for him throughout his adult life. And, given that he is currently president of the United States, it’s hard to argue with his formula.
But, then, why deny it? Embrace your cable TV addiction, President Trump! Trust me, the water’s fine.