Wednesday, June 29, 2011

In May, Obama worked about four hours a day

At the President's press conference today, Mr. Obama made frequent pointed references that Congress needs to "do its job."  He also implied that he was hard at work, in Washington and  the Congress should be too.  An analysis of Mr. Obama's published work schedule raises some questions about the actual level of presidential exertion.

According to the White House, the President doesn't work all that much.  During the month of May, which included 21 working days, President Obama claims he worked about 92 hours (91.95 to be exact).  That's according to the White House schedule, posted on the whitehouse.gov Website.   That equates to an exhausting 4.4 hours per day.  Excluding his grueling G8 summit travels during the week of May 23 (when he was forced to endure eight hour work days!), Mr. Obama worked an average of 3.25 hours per day when at the White House in May.

Indeed, the President's schedule is so thin, the White House Communications team sees it necessary to include the Vice President's meetings, when he subs for the President* for padding.  For example, on May 3rd and May 17th, Vice President Biden held working breakfast meetings at 7:45 am with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in the President's stead.

On May 17th, the President started his day at a leisurly 10:30 am, when he received his Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB), almost three hours after his 20 year older Vice President began his day.

Source: whitehouse.gov
That same day, the president worked a full 4.0 hours, which included  a 65 minute meeting (from 11:15 am to 12:20 pm) with His Majesty, the King of Jordan, a critical ally in the middle east.  Sadly, the King did not rate a presidential luncheon, which Mr. Obama had with his overworked VP at 12:30.

It is interesting to note that the President did not meet at all with his OMB Director, Jacob Lew or his newly appointed Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, Gene Sperling; while the Vice President met with both men on May 3.  The President had only one meeting in May with Treasury Secretary Geithner, on the 19th.  That day, the president worked a full 3.5 hours.  

May 3rd was also notable as it included Mr. Obama's only Cabinet meeting, which lasted a full 90 minutes, assuming there was a lunch break.  In fairness, May 3rd was Mr. Obama's busiest day at the White House, where he worked seven hours, including a 3-hour awards dinner at the Ritz-Carlton in DC.

The next day, the President took it easy, working for only 2.5 hours.  In fact, he had no scheduled activities between 11:30 and 3:00 pm, at which time he hosted a reception to celebrate Jewish-American Heritage Month, which does not count as actual work, since it is also political.  At 4:30, he met with Prince Charles, but sadly the Prince of Wales did not rate a dinner either.

The president met with unnamed "Senior Advisers" seven times in May for a period we estimate at around one hour each (based on book-ended meeting start and end times).

One of the President's least busy days was May 5th, when his only actual work included laying a wreath at the 9-11 memorial and meeting with relatives of the fallen from that tragic event.  That day, the president clocked 1.25 hours of work.  Mr. Obama worked 1.5 hours on Friday, May 13th and for 2 hours on the following Monday, May 16.

As an aside, Mr. Obama met most frequently with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates; hosting him twice during the month, on the 3rd and the 17th.  Conversely, the President had not one official meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the most senior Cabinet officer.

A spreadsheet of the President's schedule from May is posted here.  For calculation purposes, I excluded all travel time, since the President does travel on the most awesome private jet in the world and in the most highly customized limousines, no one could seriously call that "work."   The calculations also required some interpretation, for example we excluded his visit to the Allison Transmission facility in Indiana as a political event, it didn't matter much as he was only on the ground in Indiana for just over 85 minutes.  We also excluded his reception for the National Teacher of the Year, which is his political base and the famed poetry night the First Lady put together.  We did include the National Hispanic prayer breakfast.  We thought we'd throw him a bone.

Perhaps a member of the press might quiz the administration on the perceived paucity of presidential activity.  An analysis of his G8 summit work schedule is forthcoming.

*So desperate are they for something to count, the Communications team also list Press Secretary Jay Carney's daily briefings as if they were among the President's activities.

Screen Captures of the President's Calendar Dec. 19, 2010 through July 2, 2011

Mr. Obama avoids meeting his economic team so far in 2011