Donald Trump's big coronavirus sacrifice? Lunch.

Trump took to his preferred medium — Twitter — to respond. “I work from early in the morning until late at night, haven’t left the White House in many months (except to launch Hospital Ship Comfort) in order to take care of Trade Deals, Military Rebuilding etc., and then I read a phony story in the failing @nytimes about my work….” he wrote on Sunday afternoon.

“President Trump’s schedule is so packed amid the coronavirus crisis that he sometimes skips lunch, his aides told The Post — refuting a report that the commander-in-chief spends his days obsessing over TV coverage and eating fries.

“White House staffers said the president works around the clock and can make five dozen work-related calls a day during the pandemic.”

The piece includes on-the-record comments from newly installed White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, in which he frets that his “biggest concern” in the new job is making sure Trump “gets some time to get a quick bite to eat.” An unnamed source within the White House is quoted telling the Post of Trump: “There are times when lunch isn’t even a thought,” the official said. “A lot of time there’s either no time for lunch or there is 10 minutes for lunch.” There’s another unnamed source who provided the Post with Trump’s phone calls sheet, attesting to just how busy he is. (It is, of course, possible, that the Post happened upon all this reporting on its own. Possible.)

This is — in case you hadn’t noticed yet — an article that was spoon-fed to the Post by the White House. (The New York Post is owned by Rupert Murdoch, a personal friend of Trump’s.) You can imagine how the conversation went: Trump, still angry about the portrayal in the Times, demanded that his press shop find a place to get a better headline that showed what a hard worker he is. Panicked at the prospect of disappointing their boss, the press aides got this, uh, thing posted in the Post.

That it reads like parody won’t bother the President. (Honestly, imagine that this same headline “White House officials say Trump works so hard, he often misses lunch” ran in The Onion. Would it seem out of place? It would not. And there you go.) He wanted a story. He got a story.

What Trump fails to realize is that his anger — and his demand for some sort of counter-messaging — reveals two not-so-appealing things about him:

1) His idea of sacrifice is laughable. As we all read stories about medical professionals going weeks without seeing their families, taking risks with their own health due to a lack of personal protective equipment, the smallness of Trump’s go-without-lunch boast comes into clear focus. The President of the United States occasionally forgets to eat lunch because he is so busy? That is supposed to suggest he is part of the shared sacrifice millions of Americans are making as they actively work to combat the disease? What about kids who are struggling to get breakfast, lunch and even dinner now that schools are canceled? The suggestion that this President is somehow making similar sacrifices is patently ridiculous.

2) He’s deeply insecure. Trump works a different way — and at different hours — than lots of us. He loves being on the phone. He works late into the night. That’s all fine! Barack Obama had a different approach to his work schedule on a daily basis than did George W. Bush. And Bush’s approach was diametrically different than Bill Clinton’s. Everyone — including presidents! — works best their own way. That Trump can’t be confident enough in his approach to own it and, instead, works to push out a message that he is constantly working — so hard, in fact, that he sometimes skips lunch!!! — speaks to a deep-seated insecurity about how he is perceived by the public. Truly smart people don’t need to tell the world how smart they are. Great athletes don’t need to brag about their athletic accomplishments. And hard workers don’t need to tell you how they skipped lunch because they were working so very hard.

Trump is — seemingly — unaware of all of this. All he cares about is knocking down what he believes to be a “bad” headline with a “good” one. But in so doing, he’s shown himself in a very unflattering lunch, er, light.


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