Alternate headline: “Man thought being president would be easier than hosting ‘Celebrity Apprentice.'”
That’s not quite what he’s saying, but this is one of those moments of weird candor he has with reporters from time to time that leaves you wondering if he’s working an angle or just doesn’t grasp how he sounds. Which is strange for someone who’s so conscious of his image and practiced at media manipulation.
“I loved my previous life. I had so many things going,” Trump told Reuters in an interview. “This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.”…
Trump, who said he was accustomed to not having privacy in his “old life,” expressed surprise at how little he had now. And he made clear he was still getting used to having 24-hour Secret Service protection and its accompanying constraints.
“You’re really into your own little cocoon, because you have such massive protection that you really can’t go anywhere,” he said.
I think he’s telling the truth. Less than a week after the election, he was reportedly surprised to learn during his Oval Office meeting with Obama that he’d be responsible for staffing the West Wing in its entirety. (Supposedly Obama came away thinking he’d have to spend more time than he anticipated talking Trump through the basics of the job.) There’s circumstantial evidence too: Trump is way off Obama’s pace in hiring key personnel at federal agencies after his first hundred days, thanks in part to upheaval within his transition team before he was sworn in. Who knows when, or if, he was made aware of the sheer scope of positions that needed filling. According to none other than Newt Gingrich, Trump told him shortly after election day, “This is really a bigger job than I thought.” Lord only knows what he thought the job entailed.
Being surprised by his duties is one thing, though, admitting surprise is another. Why do that? This is what I mean about moments of weird candor — even if he thought the presidency would be easier than his previous life as a media personality/TV host/real-estate brand licenser, which no one else did, it’s strange that he doesn’t realize his opinion isn’t widely shared and might leave voters side-eyeing each other about his level of preparation. Same goes for when he acknowledged that his sense of how much leverage China actually has over North Korea changed after a 10-minute chat with Xi Jinping. Same goes for when he exclaimed a few months back, “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.” People did know. He might not know, but why admit to it?
— Philip Klein (@philipaklein) April 28, 2017
It leaves you to wonder whether his reversal on intervening in Syria, say, and his change of heart on whether China is a currency manipulator are strategic gambits or just simple functions of him hearing viewpoints he hasn’t heard before. Every new president has a learning curve but only one gives you regular updates on his lessons. And like I say, what makes that so surprising is that Trump is extremely self-aggrandizing and image-conscious. If any president would want people to believe that he knew everything about everything on day one — remember, he has a “very good brain” — you’d think it would be him. Instead he’s telling Reuters that he’s surprised to find the job, the presidency of the United States, involves more work than what he used to do. Huh.
Is there a political angle to that or is it just solipsism, i.e. he’s assuming that because he was genuinely surprised to find how complicated health-care reform was, everyone else must be too? You can work up a tactical explanation if you try — Trump is admitting to not knowing some of the complexities of foreign and domestic policy because he knows many Americans don’t know the complexities either. It’s proof of his “common touch,” or it’s just a shrewd way to lower expectations by reminding people occasionally that he’s still in the “learning curve” phase. Solipsism seems like a safer bet than eight-dimensional chess, but your mileage may vary.