A new euphemism has been born.
According to private schedules of President Trump’s time at the White House obtained by Axios’s Jonathan Swan, large chunks of each day are reserved for something called “executive time.” Theoretically, this means time set aside for the chief executive to take care of business outside of the constraints of formal meetings. In practice, it’s a lot of watching TV and using Twitter.
“The schedule says Trump has ‘Executive Time’ in the Oval Office every day from 8am to 11am,” Swan writes, “but the reality is he spends that time in his residence, watching TV, making phone calls and tweeting.” Executive time later in the day is often spent watching TV in the dining room adjacent to the Oval Office.
Swan walks through the private schedule for one Tuesday.
- 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.: Executive time
- 11 a.m.: Meeting with Chief of Staff
- 11:30 a.m.: Executive time
- 12:30 p.m.: Lunch
- 1:30 p.m.: Executive time
- 2:45 p.m.: Meeting with National Security Adviser
- 3:30 p.m.: Executive time
- 3:45 p.m.: Meeting with head of presidential personnel
- 4:15 p.m.: End of day
That’s 5½ hours of executive time over the course of an 8¼-hour workday.
The Trump administration has been deliberate about reframing the president’s down time as time that he spends with his nose to the grindstone. By keeping his public schedule light, Trump’s team argues that the rest of the time is spent in meetings, on important calls and so on. It’s the same thing that the White House does with Trump’s time at golf courses: Since they rarely admit he’s actually playing golf, they instead imply that the time he spends there involves a lot of meetings and calls.
It doesn’t really fool anyone. When Trump told the press last year that he doesn’t watch much television (because instead he was “reading documents”), the claim was treated with a healthy and deserved amount of skepticism. On at least a third of the days he’d been president through the end of November 2017, we tallied that he had demonstrably tweeted or spoken about something that he likely saw on television. Media Matters’ Matthew Gertz has tracked Trump’s engagement with the Fox News show “Fox and Friends” in particular, finding that Trump regularly tweets things that are a response to things he saw on the show.
He did it Monday morning.
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
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 8, 2018
(This tweet is also deeply misleading.)
However! Trump has done us all a valuable service. Sitting around watching TV and tweeting angrily about it is no longer an idle pursuit of people who should have better things to do. Instead, this is now executive time, an important part of being an important executive doing important things. Grab the phone and complain to a friend about how mean everyone is to you? That’s executive time, too.
We made a little tool that allows you to calculate just how much time you spend on executive time. (If you have a Twitter account, we can drill down more precisely.)
Let’s plug in Trump’s information. We estimate that he spends six hours a day watching television — the New York Times reported in December that he averages between four and eight — and makes 10 calls to friends a day. That gives us a total of about 314 hours on executive time since Dec. 8, 2017. That includes about 10 hours on Jan. 2 (the day recently on which he tweeted the most).
Of course Trump also has another component of executive time that you probably don’t. Since he took office, he’s likely played 74 rounds of golf, totaling about 259 hours of time (estimating 3½ hours per round). Since Dec. 8, he’s played 10 rounds, totaling 35 hours. So that’s 349 hours of executive time.
This is an imprecise total, obviously. Trump, a multitasker, overlaps phone calls and TV and Twitter in a way that likely reduces those totals. (This is also why your totals may amount to more than you’d expect.)
The amount of time spent reading documents is not included in our totals.