Washington - Rejoice! The president is doing a lot of nothing.
A leak of internal White House schedules has caused a to-do over what President Trump is doing -- or, rather, what he may not be doing. According to Axios, which received the leak of 51 daily schedules since the midterm elections, Trump has spent about 60 percent of his scheduled time in "Executive Time" -- the period during which the president, often in his residence, watches TV, tweets, talks on the phone, has impromptu meetings and (very) occasionally reads something.
He spent 297 hours in Executive Time since Nov. 7, compared with 77 hours for policy planning, legislative strategy and making video recordings, combined. Though he has a seemingly endless tolerance for Executive Time, policy meetings tend to be allowed 45 minutes, and can be as brief as 15.
The director of Oval Office operations, Madeleine Westerhout, is deeply aggrieved, tweeting that the leak was a "disgraceful breach of trust" and insisting that Trump "is working harder for the American people than anyone in recent history."
Indeed, it would not be easy to watch TV for seven hours a day (he had that much Executive Time the day after the election and again on Jan. 18). Sometimes the idleness is so taxing that Executive Time must be broken up -- by an hour-long lunch break.
Westerhout needn't be so defensive about the president's loafing. The vast majority of Americans who are displeased with whatever it is he's doing should be delighted to learn that he is not doing a lot of it. Given the harm and chaos caused by his actions, inaction is a welcome reprieve.
Among the many things the president is currently not doing is appointing people to work for the federal government. His administration could be the cast of a Broadway musical: an acting chief of staff, acting attorney general, acting defense secretary, acting interior secretary, acting budget director, acting head of the Environmental Protection Agency. An analysis done by The Washington Post and the Partnership for Public Service finds that Trump has not troubled himself to nominate people for 150 of 705 key Senate-confirmed positions.
Nearly 60 percent of such positions are unfilled at the Justice, Labor and Interior departments.
What Trump is actually doing during Executive Time should be obvious to anybody who looks at the man. He is performing his beauty regimen.
Katie Rogers of The New York Times just did an investigative deep-dive into Trump's routine and reported, among other things: "A half-dozen current and former aides and people close to Mr. Trump say he has long been self-sufficient in matters of grooming."
This is impressive, because his grooming is extensive: By Trump's own account, shampooing with Head & Shoulders and then an hour of drying. Only then does the extensive combing and hair-spraying begin. In addition, there is the coloring of both hair and skin to whatever bad ombre of orange he desires. Self-tanning creams can take four to eight hours to do their magic before they can be washed off. That's a lot of executive time.
It's easy to see why a hypothetical presidential schedule that goes like this:
-- 8 a.m.: Hair washing (30 mins)
-- 8:30 a.m.: Hair drying (60 mins)
-- 9:30 a.m.: Hair combing and spraying (30 mins)
-- 10 a.m.: Skin oranging (4 hours)
-- 2 p.m.: Makeup application (30 mins)
Would sound better if presented like this:
-- 8 a.m.: Executive Time (4 hours)
-- Noon: Lunch (1 hour)
-- 1 p.m.: Executive Time: (1 1/2 hours).
Let us not, then, give the White House a hard time about the president's leisurely schedule. The more time he is applying orange agents to himself, the less time he is doing harm to others.
The importance of keeping the president inactive was confirmed again in recent days by equities analyst Barry Ritholtz. He made two stock portfolios: one of companies Trump has touted (he calls this the Oligarch Index) and one of companies Trump has disparaged (the Drain the Swamp Index). Writing for Bloomberg, he reported that companies Trump disparaged gained 43 percent in 2017, more than twice the growth of the companies Trump praised.
And in 2018? Trump-touted companies fell 23 percent, while those he disfavored gained 6 percent -- 12 points better than the S&P 500.
The president, it would seem, has a reverse Midas touch -- yet another reason why he should have all the Executive Time he desires.
Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.