“Look,” Navarro replied, “you have to understand this is the hardest-working president in history. He works 24/7. He can be in Bedminster, Mar-a-Lago, the Oval Office or anywhere in between.”
It is certainly interesting that Trump’s actual office comes in third on Navarro’s list of where the president might be working. But it is more interesting that Navarro is willing to claim on national television that Trump is the hardest-working president in history. He is unquestionably the hardest-working person currently serving as U.S. president, but, beyond that, all bets are off.
Why might we feel comfortable saying that? The extensive documentation of how much time Trump spends doing things that are obviously not part of his job.
The trips to his resorts
That Trump spends a lot of time at properties owned by his personal business is, like his failure to release his tax returns, a remarkable occurrence that has faded into background noise. So it’s worth putting a fine point on it when appropriate, as it is here.
The president has spent all or part of 383 days during his presidency at properties he or his private company owns. That includes all or part of 132 days at his Mar-a-Lago property in Florida and all or part of 102 days at his club in Bedminster, N.J. If you’re curious, 383 days is about 3 out of every 10 days he’s been president. On average, two days of every week are spent entirely or in part at a Trump or Trump Organization property.
Is he working when he’s there? Sure, sometimes. Over the weekend, for example, he held two odd news conferences in Bedminster, allowing club members to join the fun (and boo the reporters).
But he also spends time doing normal guy-at-a-private-resort things such as hitting up the omelet bar or enjoying personal performances by a lounge singer. That he owns the facilities, of course, expands the number of available opportunities. He’s been known to show up at weddings and fundraisers being hosted by the Trump Organization, offering a potential bit of icing for the properties’ sales pitches.
What he does most of all, though, is he plays golf. Washington Post analysis of Trump’s time at his properties suggests that he’s probably played golf on 237 separate occasions as president, nearly all at Trump properties. A separate analysis compiled by Trump Golf Count has confirmed 131 outings, occasions on which there is demonstrated evidence that Trump actually played. (The White House, for obvious reasons, doesn’t generally confirm that Trump is playing golf.)
Generally speaking, Trump spends about three hours on a round of golf, which means that he’s spent between 16 (according to the Trump Golf Count confirmations) and 30 days (by our estimate) on the links as president. Solid, 24-hour days.
Can Trump work from the course? Again, sure, at least in the sense that he can schmooze his golf partners (often Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), of late) or, if desired, make calls. But then there was that time when Trump retweeted a supporter calling out “White power!” to mock a protester and White House staffers said they couldn’t reach the president for several hours while he was playing at his course in Virginia.
While he was a private citizen and then a candidate, Trump would often mock President Barack Obama for the frequency with which he played. By August 2012, when he was up for reelection, Obama had played only 104 times — as confirmed by the White House. Given the discrepancy between Trump’s disparagement of Obama and his own golf habit, Trump has at times insisted that his golfing is simply an effort to get exercise. An expert who spoke with The Post suggested that he might want to supplement that workout regimen.
The expert did suggest that Trump probably got a decent amount of exercise simply from walking between meetings. But Trump’s public schedule is often fairly light, and there’s quite a bit of evidence that his unscheduled time involves an awful lot of television.
Matt Gertz of Media Matters has tracked overlap between Trump’s tweets and cable news programming over the course of his presidency, finding that Trump tweeted about things he was watching on television nearly 1,000 times from January 2019 through June of this year. There have been days when several hours of his time are clearly spent in front of the television, as revealed by his tweets about programming.
But even without those cues, it’s obvious that Trump spends a lot of time watching television. In 2018, for example, Jonathan Swan of Axios reported that Trump would invite White House visitors to a dining room adjacent to the Oval Office where he’d had a large television installed. Why? To show them replays of his favorite speeches and even, early in his presidency, his 2016 campaign debates.
In April, the New York Times reported that Trump will, at times, watch cable news in the White House residence from 5 a.m. until nearly noon — and then turn the television back on in prime time.
Sure, Trump can work while the television is on, as he apparently must. But he’s also clearly paying attention to the programming, as evidenced, among other things, by all of those tweets.
The social media
Those tweets, of course, are their own distraction from the job at hand. This, too, is something that we by now take for granted and that deserves to be broken out as its own focal point of presidential attention.
For example, in May we took all of Trump’s tweets as president and created an interactive allowing readers to see how much time Trump had spent tweeting, depending on how long it took him to craft a tweet. This, by itself, isn’t an easy thing to determine, though at one point we realized that Trump had spent an average of more than six minutes crafting tweets written to continue a particular thought.
If we simply assume that it takes him one minute to write an original tweet, on average, and one second to retweet a tweet, then Trump spent nearly 10 solid days as president doing nothing but tweeting through mid-May. But, here: Use your own estimates.
How long do you think it takes Trump to...
Tweet? 1 minute
Retweet? 1 second
Trump would certainly claim that Twitter is as essential to his work as golf is to his fitness regimen. But it’s certainly safe to assert that some tweets, such as those detailing various cable-news ratings, aren’t particularly important to the job of running the country.
It is certainly possible that Navarro is including in his assessment of Trump’s hardworking-ness all of the time the president spends doing anything at all. So, maybe Trump is the hardest-working president in the sense that he’s constantly doing something, up at 5 a.m. to live-tweet “Fox & Friends” before grabbing an omelet and playing a round with Graham.
That is not, however, the standard sense in which the term might be expected to be used.