As the election approaches, both the press and the public are looking at the candidates more closely. And recently, several people who have worked closely with Republican nominee Donald Trump have spoken up about his lack of focus and his disinterest in learning about policy issues.
Trump’s Ghost Writer
Individuals who work for the Trump organization tend to think that Trump will handle the challenges well. Those who were given a lot of responsibility and freedom to manage projects when they were new to the organization are grateful for the trust he placed in them and the experience they gained.
But individuals who have interviewed him and written about him worry that he lacks the focus and discipline to think issues through carefully. For example, Tony Schwartz, the coauthor/ghost writer of The Art of the Deal, spoke out in July shortly before the Republican National Convention. He told The New Yorker that one of the first things he learned about Trump was,
“He has no attention span.”
According to Schwartz, Trump became impatient and fidgety when Schwartz tried to interview him about his childhood and youth He cut meetings short. Schwartz found that it was
“impossible to keep him focussed [sic] on any topic, other than his own self-aggrandizement, for more than a few minutes.”
Eventually, Schwartz came up with a plan to observe Trump rather than interview him. He sat in on meetings and listened to phone calls on an extension. No call was too private for Schwartz to sit in on. And Trump loved the attention.
But Trump’s short attention span worried Schwartz when Trump began his run for the presidency. Schwartz told The New Yorker that if Trump had to be in the situation room for long meetings to handle a crisis,
“It’s impossible to imagine him paying attention for a long period of time.”
Schwartz also believes that Trump’s short attention span has resulted in
“a stunning level of superficial knowledge and plain ignorance.”
Where Is Trump’s Focus?
Multiple sources, including the reporters at the Washington Post whose book about Trump is forthcoming, observed that Trump does not read if at all possible. In 18 months, Schwartz never saw a book on his desk.
The Post reporters observed that he has no computer on his desk. Trump refuses written reports; he prefers to have associates present the information to him verbally. He gets his news from television. And he believes that extensive memos and lengthy meetings are time wasters, “like junk mail.”
Even so, according to Politico’s story, for decades, every morning, Trump reads every news item published about him in the last 24 hours, and handled all the media requests himself.
In addition to his own publicity, Trump also focuses on things that bring instant gratification—food, sex, front-loaded business deals. He doesn’t strategize or build deep relationships with people.
Another former Trump executive wrote that it was impossible to have a strategy meeting with him.
Trump’s preparation for the debates against Hillary Clinton also is highly unusual for a presidential candidate. He is reviewing videotapes of Clinton’s previous debates from her runs for he Senate and for president in 2008. And he meets with a team of advisers, including Roger Ailes, formerly of Fox News, radio talk show host Laura Ingraham, and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.
But Trump told the press that over-preparing and overthinking can hurt performance rather than help it. So they have gathered at Trump’s golf course on Sunday afternoons to share hot dogs, bacon cheeseburgers, and Coke.
And their focus has been on “zingers” for Trump to use against Clinton rather than educating Trump on policy issues.
Watch for yourself how short Trump’s attention span is in this clip: