President Donald Trump waves to his supporters as the presidential motorcade passes through Bingham Island on the way to Mar-a-lago in Palm Beach, Fla., on March 4, 2017. (Michael Ares / Palm Beach Post via AP)
Donald Trump has many worrisome, regrettable and even deplorable traits. But after studying him for the past two years, I have concluded he has an overlooked quality that cancels out many of his bad ones. Say what you will, the man is lazy.
This is a discovery that should gladden people of all parties, philosophies, races, sexes and religions. His detractors can be glad that he will never muster the drive or discipline to actually bring many of his worst ideas to fruition. His admirers can rest easy knowing he will not work himself to death.
The comic strip "Dilbert" has a character named Wally, whose chief talent is finding ways to avoid doing anything productive. A few years ago, his pointy-haired boss informed Wally that he was being replaced by a robot. "All it does is drink coffee and look at inappropriate websites," he said.
If that’s the definition of sloth, the president has Wally beat, because he doesn’t drink coffee and he doesn’t look at inappropriate websites. We can be sure of the latter because he apparently never bothered learning to use a computer — a symptom of his antipathy to exertion.
It was always clear that Trump does not like putting himself out. At the height of the general election campaign, he averaged only one event per day. Over two months leading up to the Iowa caucuses, Reuters reported, Ted Cruz did some three dozen events; Trump did eight. He insisted on flying home to New York almost every night of the campaign to sleep in his own bed.
We’ve also known Trump is intellectually lazy. He admitted last year that he has never read a biography of a president, citing a lack of time — even though he claims to sleep no more than five hours a night. Tony Schwartz, who ghostwrote "The Art of the Deal," has said, "I seriously doubt that Trump has ever read a book straight through in his adult life."
Asked last year where he gets military advice, Trump replied, "Well, I watch the shows." He does put in long hours in front of a flat-screen, gathering random tidbits that inspire outbursts on Twitter. Atlantic writer Elaine Godfrey rounded up all the evidence and estimated that he currently watches five hours of television per day.
He’s also averse to breaking a literal sweat. Unlike Barack Obama and George W. Bush, Trump doesn’t work out. He said last year he didn’t need to because of all the exercise he got speaking at his rallies. (In truth, jumping the shark does not burn calories.)
The closest he gets is golf, and he apparently minimizes the physical demands by using a cart, which makes the game about as strenuous as shuffleboard. Golf is not work but leisure, and Trump consumes it in quantities that must inspire envy in duffers with full-time jobs. He played 19 times during his first 100 days — far outpacing Obama, whom he roasted for playing too often.
Trump prefers to be at his Mar-a-Lago resort rather than in Washington; he spent all or part of 25 days there in his first 100. Even when he’s in the White House, his public schedule indicates a lot of, um, unstructured time in his day.
Despite all this, the president sounds like a first-time marathoner hitting the 20-mile wall. "This is more work than in my previous life," Trump complained. "I thought it would be easier."
Much of Trump’s cluelessness about issues stems from his refusal to make more than a minimal effort at his job. As his comments about Andrew Jackson and the Civil War confirm, Trump is not merely too lazy to learn; he’s too lazy to notice there is anything others know that he might need to. His is indolence on an epic scale.
And that, on balance, is good news. The people who fear that Trump is trying to subvert democracy, persecute Muslims and dismantle the rule of law can take heart that he won’t put much effort into it. Inaugurating a reign of terror requires a work ethic he just doesn’t have.
Trump would be far more dangerous if he had the energy to pursue all his bad ideas in a systematic way. The more time he spends in a golf cart the less harm he will do. If the job is not so easy as he expected, I have some advice for him: Don’t work so hard.
Steve Chapman, a member of the Tribune Editorial Board, blogs at www.chicagotribune.com/chapman.
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