What Trump Didn’t Do in His First Year

Unlike most predecessors, the 45th president has had no pets, no state dinners, and no visits to California or Mexico.

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
George E. Condon Jr.
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George E. Condon Jr.
Jan. 18, 2018, 8 p.m.

For 12 months, the focus has been on those things President Trump did that his predecessors did not—the constant tweets, putting family on his staff, maintaining his private business empire, the boasting, the insults directed at other world leaders. Left mostly unexamined have been the things he hasn’t done, the conduct displayed by many other presidents but missing in the 45th president’s White House. Here are 10 things that he didn’t do:

1. No Oval Office address to the nation

The nine presidents from John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush all gave prime-time Oval Office addresses to the nation in their first year. Barack Obama broke that string, preferring to speak from the Cross Hall of the White House. Trump shares Obama’s aversion to sitting behind his desk for a speech. He prefers to speak from the Diplomatic Reception Room as he did after the shooting at the congressional baseball practice and when he announced his decision on Jerusalem.

2. No meeting with the Mexican president

Ten of the last 11 presidents met with the president of Mexico in their first year. (Kennedy waited 17 months.) Trump was supposed to have his summit in his first month until an insistence that Mexico pay for his border wall got in the way. On Jan. 26, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto warned that he may scrap the meeting. Trump quickly tweeted back that he would cancel it first. “Unless Mexico is going to treat the U.S., fairly, with respect, such a meeting would be fruitless,” he tweeted.

3. No state dinners

Overseas, no president has enjoyed foreign pomp and ceremony more than Trump. But back home, no president in almost a century has been stingier in diplomatic payback. The last 14 presidents have hosted a state dinner in their first year. Calvin Coolidge was the last president before Trump not to do so. His reluctance seems to be a combination of a disorganized staff and the president’s comments in the campaign critical of Obama for giving a state dinner in 2015.

4. No attendance at any Gridiron, WHCA, or Alfalfa dinner

All 17 presidents from Woodrow Wilson to Obama attended at least one of the three big formal spring dinners since the White House Correspondents’ Association was formed in 1914, joining the Gridiron Club (1885) and the Alfalfa Club (1913). Trump stayed away from all three groups in his first year, allowing him to snub both the press, represented by Gridiron and WHCA, and the establishment, represented by Alfalfa.

5. No “night out” in D.C. other than at his own property

Most presidents find ways to interact with their new neighbors in Washington. Wilson routinely walked to the bank. Harry Truman walked to Quigley’s Pharmacy to have a soda with his daughter. Bill Clinton walked along Georgia Avenue. Obama was a regular at D.C. restaurants ranging from the enduring (Ben’s Chili Bowl) to the trendy (Komi). He also stopped in at book stores. But Trump, 12 months in, remains a stranger to Washington. He has yet to go anywhere other than the hotel he owns. No restaurants, no private homes, no shops. In November, on The Larry O’Connor Show, he noted suggestions he get out more. “I never thought of it, and I’m going to start doing that.”

6. No trip to California

California is the largest state, with 39.2 million people. It also has suffered through a pretty rough 12 months of drought, wildfires, floods, and mudslides. Dozens have died, thousands displaced. But, for the first time in 64 years, a president did not visit the state in his first year, breaking a string of 10 presidents who did. Trump has made it to 29 other states. Obama went to California less than two months after his inauguration, visiting five cities and doing two town halls.

7. Only one solo press conference

In the century since Wilson began presidential press conferences, Trump holds the record for the fewest solo press conferences in his first year. He held only one, a memorable, somewhat bizarre session on Feb. 16. He lags behind his five immediate predecessors: Ronald Reagan, who was recovering from being shot, had six. George H.W. Bush had 25; Clinton 12; George W. Bush four; and Obama 11.

8. No release of his taxes after filing them

From Richard Nixon to Obama, all recent presidents have released their tax returns, or, in the case of Gerald Ford, a summary of his returns after filing them. But April 15 passed without Trump budging from his refusal to disclose. Again, he contended that he could not release any return while he is under audit.

9. No public reading list

Every president since Theodore Roosevelt has been a heavy reader, leading to a tradition since Reagan of presidents talking about the books they are reading and those they plan to read on vacations. That tradition ended with Trump, who has talked openly about how little he reads. Appropriately, he holds up as his model president Andrew Jackson, who is considered the president who read the least. Trump has made no secret of his preference for television over books, telling The Washington Post in 2016 that he had never read a biography of any American president. “I never have. I’m always busy doing a lot. Now, I’m more busy, I guess, than ever before.” That hasn’t stopped him from tweeting praise for books by supporters.

10. No pets

Since James K. Polk left office, there have been 32 presidents before Trump. All of them had pets (if you count Andrew Johnson’s mice). By National Journal’s count of pets listed by the Presidential Pet Museum, those presidents had 111 dogs, 17 cats, dozens of birds, lots of fish, five guinea pigs, four goats, three squirrels, two rats, two alligators, two rabbits, two opposums, many horses and ponies, chickens and hamsters and sheep, and one donkey, goose, bobcat, ram, and rooster. That all ended with Trump, who is reported to be disdainful of pets. According to McKay Coppins in The Atlantic, the president ridiculed Vice President Mike Pence’s pets—a rabbit, two cats, and a snake. He quoted an aide saying Trump thinks having pets is “so low class” and that “he thinks the Pences are yokels.”

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