This, of course, sounds a bit like what you might hear from a co-worker who hasn’t done much all week when you ask him what he’s done all week. It’s almost certainly true that Trump made lots of calls and had lots of meetings; reporting over the past four years has repeatedly indicated that Trump spends a lot of time on the phone and in informal discussions. For past presidents, though, that they had little free time would be assumed, and their daily schedules would be littered with various public events and scheduled interactions. Particularly since the 2020 presidential election, that hasn’t really been the case for Trump.
But as it turns out, that’s not as unusual as it might seem. Data provided to The Washington Post by Factba.se shows that, in the final weeks of past presidencies, things haven’t always been wall-to-wall busy.
Consider just the period from Jan. 1 to Jan. 14 in each president’s last month in office. Bill Clinton had scheduled events on all 14 days. George H.W. Bush had events on all but one. For his son, George W. Bush, and for Ronald Reagan, those 14 days included 10 with scheduled events. For Barack Obama, though, only four days included scheduled events, one more than Trump.
That’s not a perfect metric for assessing business. After all, some of Clinton’s scheduled events were things like heading back to the White House from vacation. Factba.se also tallied events involving public statements for each president, and on that metric, only Clinton stands out as keeping his nose to the grindstone. (Of course, Clinton did like to talk.)
Here, too, things are not necessarily even. Obama’s public comments included an interview, a farewell address, a public medal ceremony (honoring his vice president, Joe Biden) and comments made at a farewell ceremony for the armed forces.
Trump’s have been … different. There was a political rally in Georgia on Jan. 4. Then his speech on the morning of Jan. 6 — the one that contributed to his being impeached for inciting the violent occupation of the Capitol. His other public comments that day came in the form of a video attempting to tamp down criticism for the pre-insurrection speech. Then a few more public statements focused on the Capitol event and a few interactions with the press before a short speech at the border.
Take out Trump’s Jan. 6 speech and the efforts to address or clean up what happened at the Capitol, and Trump’s only had four public comments, one of which was his answering questions from the media about what happened at the Capitol.
Trump has a little less than a week left in office. There had been some effort to use those days to shift attention to what his administration presents as his accomplishments. Instead, it seems that he’ll use most of that time to make calls and take meetings — with individuals and about subjects that will be lost in the dust of history.