There's a remarkably telling paragraph in Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush's tour de force in the New York Times documenting President Trump's first two weeks in office. Here it is:
Usually around 6:30 p.m., Mr. Trump retires upstairs to the residence to recharge, vent and intermittently use Twitter. With his wife, Melania, and young son, Barron, staying in New York, he is almost always by himself, sometimes in the protective presence of his imposing longtime aide and former security chief, Keith Schiller. When Mr. Trump is not watching television in his bathrobe or on his phone reaching out to old campaign hands and advisers, he will sometimes set off to explore the unfamiliar surroundings of his new home.
First of all, it's amazing reporting that allows HaberThrush to create such a vivid image. Second, it continues to shock me how willing administration officials are to leak information that makes the 45th president look not so good. And third, and most importantly, the image of Trump as an almost entirely solitary figure, riveted to a TV set and his phone, is a revealing and important window into the man and the life he now lives.
It's important to remember that Trump — in this campaign and in his adult life more generally — has always been sui generis. He views himself as unique, a mold-breaker, a revolutionary — in business and now in politics. He is also remarkably transactional when it comes to acquaintances — what can he/she do for me today? — which tends not to lead to lots of close friendships. And he is a celebrity, someone with lots of “friends” but no actual, close friends. (Quick, name people Donald Trump is friends with: Don King? Kanye West? Right.)
Well, it’s an interesting question. Most of my friendships are business-related because those are the only people I meet. The people I meet, really, I guess I could say socially, when you go out to a charity event or something . . . I have people that I haven’t spoken to in years, but I think they’re friends. . . . I mean, I think I have a lot of friends but they’re not friends like perhaps other people have friends, where they’re together all the time and they go out to dinner all the time.” But was there anyone he would turn to if he had a personal problem, or some doubt about himself or something he’d done? “More of my family, I have a lot of good relationships. I have good enemies, too, which is okay. But I think more of my family than others.
Fisher relayed to me that Trump named three people, off the record, with whom he had business dealings years before that he considered friends but whom he hadn't seen in recent years. Fisher followed up with two of them, and they expressed surprise that Trump would describe them as friends as opposed to business acquaintances.
The simple fact is that Trump has never had real friends in the sense you or I think of the term. The relationship world of Trump has long been split into two groups: (1) his family and (2) people who work for him. And people who work for you are rarely your actual friends.
What is also true is that Trump is, in an odd sort of way, a reclusive family man. He is someone who likes routine and likes to be around his family. Hell, he built a hotel that he both works and lives in! Even during the campaign, Trump flew on his own plane surrounded by his kids — a protective, comfortable bubble amid the back and forth of the race.
That family bubble has been disrupted by Trump's election. His wife, Melania, and youngest son, Barron, live in New York during the week. His sons Eric and Don Jr. are tasked with running the family business in New York and, theoretically, not allowed to confer with their dad on matters that relate to the affairs of Trump Inc. His daughter, Ivanka, is busy establishing herself in D.C.
Without the comfort of Trump Tower and robbed of the proximity of his family, Trump is a man apart. He has cable TV, his phone and Twitter. But he lacks a group of friends or confidants — again, outside his immediate family — with whom he can have dinner or just chat. He is isolated — and in the most high-powered and high-stress job in the world. That's a very tough place to be.