I marvel as I watch President Trump hop from one European country to the next, from one event to the next, looking fresh and sharp, as if he’s been enjoying eight hours of refreshing sleep each night.
The truth is, that kind of schedule would be grueling if not impossible for many of us– let alone a man who turns 73-years old in a little more than a week.
Don’t be fooled by the luxury in which a U.S. President gets to travel. Even having the benefit of Air Force One and getting shepherded quickly to locations in motorcades doesn’t eliminate the toll the schedule can take on the body and mind.
When covering the President, we reporters sometimes get to travel on Air Force One, in relative luxury. We, too, get loaded into vehicles that get to skip traffic lights and zoom ahead with the presidential motorcade. But try doing that day in and day out, hopping to different countries and time zones, working on little to no meaningful sleep, and many of us definitely start to feel worse for the wear.
Politics aside, as much as we might not like to admit it, many of our politicians work really hard.
Not only do they burn the candles at both ends, but they are required to learn and retain knowledge on a wild array of topics and controversies at home and abroad. All the while, they must stay mindful to observe protocol and local customs, whether they are in a western country or a place where the rules and society are entirely different.
The first time I had this thought about how hard our politicians work, I was filling in for our regular White House correspondent at CBS News, covering a trip by then-President Clinton. Yes, we reporters work hard on these trips, too. But it occurred to me that we were doing the easy part, in a way: taking pictures of the President, covering what he said and did.
President Clinton was the one who awoke even earlier, stayed up even later, had to look like a million bucks and make no gaffes. He had to know the history and culture of an area he was visiting and stay briefed on any new developments both related and unrelated to the trip. He had to prepare for and give sharp speeches and statements; maybe engage in tricky negotiations. Then, he had to field reporter questions without mucking up diplomacy.
And oh, the pressure! One wrong move could become an international incident.
A second time this idea struck me, I was traveling with then-First Lady Hillary Clinton. Her trip included a lot of events that I would put in the category of sightseeing. But the schedule was still grueling. At every stop, Mrs. Clinton had to interact with local dignitaries and diplomats; and was expected to meet with activists and regional leaders. She gave statements and speeches. And she occasionally took questions from the press. All while looking fresh and, hopefully from her view, not giving the media something negative to put in the headlines.
So I take off my hat to these politicians, regardless of their positions and ideas. I salute their stamina, energy and drive. Credit where credit is due: They work hard for the money.