On Monday morning, President Donald Trump tweeted this: “No president ever worked harder than me (cleaning up the mess I inherited)!”
That tweet came shortly after “Morning Joe” co-host Joe Scarborough had called attention to an Axios scoop in which schedules leaked from the White House for the past four days suggested that Trump had spent 50% of his day on “executive time” – shorthand for the hours that include watching cable TV and tweeting.
Aside from suggesting Trump is not actually as rich as he says he is, there is no easier way to trigger the President’s anger than to say he simply doesn’t work all that hard. Trump has long maintained that a) no one works harder than he does and b) his commitment to said hard work is the reason for his success.
“Money may not grow on trees, but it does grow from talent, hard work, and brains,” Trump wrote in “Think Like a Billionaire.”
“People often ask me the secret to my success, and the answer is simple: passion, focus and hard work,” Trump tweeted in 2014. “Momentum keeps it all going.”
And then this tweet from earlier this month: “The media was able to get my work schedule, something very easy to do, but it should have been reported as a positive, not negative. When the term Executive Time is used, I am generally working, not relaxing. In fact, I probably work more hours than almost any past President…”
There’s more. A lot more. A search through the invaluable Trump Twitter Archive reveals more than four dozen examples of the phrase “hard work” in his tweets. Trump often uses the term to describe himself but also deploys it as a way to praise his allies (“Melania, our great and very hard working First Lady”) or sycophants (“Already number one on Amazon. Hard work from a brilliant guy. It’s the Real Story of the Rigged Witch Hunt!” Trump tweeted of Gregg Jarrett.)
The idea of Trump as the hardest working guy out there fits the broader story he has been telling himself – and everyone else – about his own life. To hear him tell it, Trump was always more comfortable with the blue collar workers out on his various projects rather than in boardrooms with a bunch of executives. (That sentiment runs directly counter to Trump’s decision to make a reality TV show that centers around him in suit and tie in a boardroom, but whatever.)
Trump as the everyman – or at least as the rare rich guy who understood the concerns of the everyman – was a central theme to his 2016 campaign. And once he won the White House, he and his aides made sure to stress that he was thankful for the support of working people and looking out for them every day.
“I think that’s where his head’s at, is trying to look at those people that come to his rallies, that have come to his events, that he’s met with in person that are struggling and say ‘Mr. Trump, I’m working as hard as I can. I’m working two jobs, I’m doing everything by the rules, and I keep getting screwed,’” said former White House press secretary Sean Spicer way back in early 2017. “That’s what he’s fighting for.”
It’s why Trump was overjoyed when a bunch of 18-wheelers were brought to the White House – so overjoyed, in fact, that he hopped into the cab of one and honked the horn.
It doesn’t take a psychology degree to understand why Trump wants to be seen as a hard-working guy who is cool with blue collar workers. He was a son of privilege. His father, Fred Trump, was wealthy. As The New York Times revealed, Fred Trump helped his son amass a huge fortune through a series of tax loopholes and other financial machinations.
Whether you like Donald Trump or you loathe him, it’s hard to make the case that he is a rags-to-riches story who overcame the many obstacles thrown in front of him through hard work. And, you assume, deep down in places he doesn’t like to talk about at parties, he knows that. Hence, the massive overcompensation when anything that brings up questions about his work ethic is raised.
“The President is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen and puts in long hours and long days nearly every day of the week all year long,” White House pres secretary Sarah Sanders said recently. “It has been noted by reporters many times that they wish he would slow down, because they sometimes have trouble keeping up with him.”