How Donald Trump Spends His Weekends at the White House Compared to Obama and Other Former Presidents
Donald Trump, like many past presidents, often gets scrutinized because of how he spends his weekends and time away from the White House. Read on for a closer look at presidential weekends and a comparison of how some of our past presidents spent their Saturdays and Sundays.
1. Do presidents really get weekends?
In short, no, they don’t. Being the president of the United States is an extraordinary job; very few are truly up for the challenge. If a president chooses to go away for the weekend, he brings Washington with him. “Some 200 people accompany a president on vacation — including White House aides, Secret Service agents, military advisers, and experts in communications and transportation — to ensure that, while on vacation, the president can do nearly everything he could accomplish in Washington,” says The Washington Post.
Next: What a weekend away costs tax payers
2. What taxpayers pay when a president goes away for the weekend
Presidents are actually responsible for paying for their own lodging, food, and incidentals while they’re away (which is why many of them stay at properties they own). What costs the taxpayers money is the use of Air Force One and the support aircraft used to haul all the equipment the president needs to bring Washington with him. According to The Congressional Research Service, the cost of using Air Force One for one hour is about $180,000.
Next: Donald Trump lives for the weekend.
3. How Donald Trump spends his weekends
Donald Trump likes to utilize his weekends. In his first year as president, he spent 38 weekends at his own properties (there are 52 weekends in a year). A lot of that time was spent at Mar-a-lago, but what Trump spends a majority of his “down time” doing is golfing. He spent 15 weekends at Trump International Golf Club, 15 weekends at the Virginia Trump National Golf Club, and 10 at the New Jersey Trump National Golf Club. Though Trump is known for repeatedly criticizing Obama for the occasional golf game (“Can you believe that, with all of the problems and difficulties facing the U.S., President Obama spent the day playing golf. Worse than Carter,” he tweeted in 2014), he’s hugely surpassed Obama, Bush, and Clinton for days spent at the golf course.
Next: Obama didn’t take nearly as much time off, despite Trump’s criticisms.
4. How Barack Obama spent his weekends
Though Trump repeatedly called Obama out on Twitter for taking too many weekends away, he only took 328 days off in eight years (that’s far less than Bush, and much fewer than the path Trump’s headed down). Much of Obama’s time away was spent at Martha’s Vineyard (a favorite vacation spot of his and his family’s), and Hawaii (where he was raised).
Next: Bush liked to spend the weekend in Texas when he could.
5. How George W. Bush spent his weekends
Though Bush surpassed Obama in time away from the White House, he wasn’t as big of a golfer. He indulged in the occasional game, but in 2003 he gave up golf since he though it inappropriate while troops were fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. He did enjoy weekends away at his ranch in Texas, though. And his advisor, Karl Rove, always made a point to let the media know which scholarly books the president would be reading while on vacation.
Next: Reagan had to make an important decision while he was away one weekend.
6. How Ronald Reagan spent his weekends
“Presidents don’t get vacations — they just get a change of scenery,” said Nancy Reagan, in an effort to defend her husband’s weekends away from the White House. Reagan is proof that a president is forced to make major decisions whether he’s at the White House or not. He was enjoying a relaxing weekend at Camp David when he made the decision to fire striking air-traffic controllers in 1981, according to The Post. When he wasn’t at Camp David, he very much enjoyed taking trips to his ranch in Santa Barbara, California.
Next: Roosevelt thought up the lend-lease program on a weekend away.
7. How Franklin D. Roosevelt spent his weekends
Franklin Roosevelt was also criticized for his time away from the White House. Right after his third term reelection in 1940, he received a great deal of backlash for going on a fishing trip in the Caribbean while Britain was being attacked by Nazi Germany. Though despite the naysayers, he used the time away to reflect on a plan, and thus the lend-lease program was born. In addition to fishing, Roosevelt also enjoyed a game of golf on the weekends.
Next: Is Obama or Trump the better golfer?
8. Who’s the better golfer?
NBC’s Golf Channel notes that Trump has said he would definitely win a match against Obama. Trump also said he’s won “many, many club championships.” (He hasn’t publicly shared that list, though.) But is that just Trump being competitive and confident? Or do his skills on the course back him up? CNBC reports that golfers say Trump has the best game of any president.
And Golf Digest seems to agree with Trump. The publication reported before Trump’s inauguration that “Donald Trump will be the 16th of the past 19 American presidents to play golf. And immediately upon entering office he will be the best player of the group, thanks to his current 2.8 Handicap Index and his 19 club championship victories.” Trump knocked John F. Kennedy out of first place as the best golfer to occupy the Oval Office. Currently, JFK takes second place, Dwight D. Eisenhower third — and Obama lands in ninth place.
Next: Trump has been accused of doing this while playing.
9. He has been accused of cheating
Sports Illustrated made waves by reporting that Trump isn’t the most honest golf player. “Trump will sometimes respond to a shot he duffed by simply playing a second ball and carrying on as if the first shot never happened,” the publication explains. “In the parlance of the game, Trump takes floating mulligans, usually more than one during a round. Because of them it is impossible to say what he has actually shot on any given day, according to 18 people who have teed it up with Trump over the last decade.” The publication adds that according to one of Trump’s playing partners, Trump takes “all the usual liberties common among everyday golfers: mulligans, gimmes, improved lies, etc.”
However, Trump is hardly the first president to cheat at golf. Bill Clinton notoriously took multiple mulligans, or extra and uncounted shots, as U.S. News notes. And you could argue that because there are so many ways to cheat at the game, at least some of them have to be pretty common.
Next: In typical Trump fashion, he lies about not only the outings, but their purpose.
10. He often golfs with athletes, friends, and business partners
The Trump Golf Count reports that the president frequently golfs with athletes and professional golfers and wealthy business executives at his properties. He recently played with Tiger Woods, and that outing likely had more to do with a golf club the pair are working on. Newsweek writes that Trump’s business organization is working on a foreign contract to build the Trump World Golf Club Dubai, with Woods designing the course. While he said he intended to “get back to work” creating American jobs, the golf course will actually employ thousands overseas, despite promising his company would not work with foreign entities.
Next: When dealing with Trump, do as he says, not as he does.
11. Trump does not golf with the people he wanted Obama to
In 2012, Trump offered Obama some free advice. “Obama should play golf with Republicans & opponents rather than his small group of friends,” he tweeted. “That way maybe the terrible gridlock would end.” Obama subsequently did so, playing a round with Republican Senators Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Bob Corker of Tennessee, as well as Democrat Mark Udall of Colorado, a few months after Trump’s tweet. The sitting president, on the other hand, does not take the long walk with his opponents. He has played golf with exactly zero Democratic Congress members since taking office, Newsweek notes.
Next: Who taught Trump how to play golf?
12. He is self-taught
Trump claims to have never consistently worked with any golf coach in his life. According to a Golf World article, Trump views the game of golf to be a very “natural game.” He told Jaime Diaz of GW that “I never really wanted to know a lot about my technique. I really trust instinct a lot, in golf and a lot of things.” That’s very concerning considering that even the best golfers have a golf coach. But let’s take a look at his short, middle, and long game before we jump to conclusions.
Additional reporting by Jess Bolluyt and Lizz Schumer.
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