It must be tough being a White House staffer and working for a president who would rather watch TV and tweet than actually attend to the business of running the government.
Things still need to get done, but it can’t be easy trying to focus President Trump’s attention on doing what actually needs to happen without landing in the same part of his brain associated with Jeff Sessions, Rex Tillerson, and the other former administration luminaries who have run afoul of the president’s good graces (or in his case, his less evil graces.)
Politico White House reporter Annie Karni revealed a new strategy by senior White House officials to try to counteract the large chunks of “executive time” — Oval Office code for the time set aside for the president’s personal agenda of screaming at the TV screen, firing off angry tweets, and practicing his golf swing — on Trump’s schedule. Karni tweeted about a new phenomenon that has suddenly appeared on the president’s daily activity list, “policy time.”
A new thing on Trump’s private schedule that I haven’t seen before: in addition to some “executive time” today, he has two blocks of “policy time.”
— Annie Karni (@anniekarni) November 13, 2018
Josh Dawsey, the White House correspondent for The Washington Post, filled in the origins of the new block of presidential scheduling in a subsequent explanatory tweet.
It was installed earlier this year to help him focus on issues. A Kelly creation. It sometimes goes better than others. https://t.co/z5379rndip https://t.co/SZhoJm4pQR
— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) November 13, 2018
Dawsey revealed that one of the purposes behind “policy time” is to present Trump with “competing views over a specific issue,” but, with Politico reporting that in recent months — when Trump wasn’t too busy riling up the rubes at his frequent campaign rallies — he was spending up to nine hours a day on his “executive time” activities, it seems like the “policy time” is primarily a way for Chief of Staff John Kelly to get Trump to pay attention to something other than Fox & Friends for at least part of each day.
Whether the institution of this new incentive will actually have any effect on the president’s interest or attention span remains to be seen, but it’s difficult to determine whether a more engaged Trump is a net positive to the country or if we’d all be better off if he is as far as possible from the actual mechanics of government so as to avoid screwing up things he might otherwise ignore.
The question many of us are most curious about in this post-midterm election period is actually how much of Trump’s day is now being spent on “lawyer’s time” as rumors of imminent new indictments from Special Counsel Robert Mueller circulate daily. Hopefully, it will soon take up 100% of his schedule, during regularly scheduled visiting hours at a federal prison.
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Original reporting by Tim Marcin at Newsweek.