A very misleading study is making the rounds right now of conservative media claiming that President Obama has spent only half the time on economic meetings that he has on golf and vacations.
The study is being cited without question on major news outlets, like Fox News, The Washington Times, The Daily Caller, and Breitbart, and you may well have seen it. But it has no relationship to reality and, since many of you have probably seen this thing, my job here is to try to give you reality.
According to the widely cited statistic in the study, Obama as of March 31 had spent 474.4 hours “in economic meetings or briefings of any kind throughout his presidency,” compared to 976 hours of golf.
Now, I’m someone who thinks Obama’s constant golf and ardent affection for vacation time is something worth noting, for a variety of reasons. And the study may be able to make a very rough tabulation about how much time he spends in these pursuits. I’d argue the authors may even have low-balled it.
But the estimate of the number of hours he has spent in economic meetings or briefings “of any kind” is false.
This is because the authors base their tabulation on Obama’s public schedule. But the publicly released schedule generally includes only a portion of Obama’s actual schedule. In fact, many of the meetings on the public schedule are of the type that are fairly useless – public sessions where either he or participants mouth talking points and everyone gets to say, for public consumption, that they met and addressed an issue.
For example: Cabinet meetings, “roundtables,” and that sort of thing. People make statements about stuff everybody already knows. It’s mainly for public consumption.
The real work at the White House gets done when, for example, National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling heads to the Oval Office with a couple of aides and spends an hour or two going through specific policy options with the president. I know from years of reporting on the White House and talking to staffers that this type of thing goes on all the time. And it never makes the schedule.
I’m not telling you that Obama doesn’t spend too much time on the golf course. Or that he has fixed the economy. I am telling you that to use the public schedule to come to a conclusion about how much time he is spending on things that are not on the schedule is wrong.