- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 28, 2017

President Trump hustled through a busy schedule Tuesday before delivering his first address to a joint session on Congress, keeping up the hectic pace that has defined his administration but also inviting questions about his preparation for a speech he called “a landmark event.”

Mr. Trump is known for winging it on the stump and even in presidential debates, but his performance in the big speech promised to set the trajectory of his presidency for months to come.

And yet the president held meetings, signed bills, signed executive orders and hosted visitors at the White House in the hours before a speech in which he strove to rally a deeply divided nation and bitterly divided Congress behind his ambitious agenda.

He did leave a few hours at the end of the day to “work through the speech and practice and make any changes,” said White House deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders.

Republican pollster and strategist Jim McLaughlin, whose firm worked for Mr. Trump during the campaign, said he was not worried about the president’s prep time for the speech.

“That’s who he is,” he said. “Having known him for a long time — obviously before he was president — he’s one of those guys who works 18 to 20 hours a day, whether it’s politics or it’s his businesses.

“I think it’s great. I think it’s what people want,” he added.

Recent polls show that Americans, especially Republicans, are happy with what Mr. Trump has been doing, he said.

“He’s keeping the ball moving forward,” said Mr. McLaughlin. “That’s who he is. There’s none of this ‘no-drama-Obama’ stuff.”

Indeed, President Obama typically cleared his schedule on the days he delivered State of the Union addresses. He did that every year except the first year, when the speech is called an address to a joint session of Congress.

Before delivering his first speech to Congress in February 2009, Mr. Obama had a series of morning meetings in the Oval Office, receiving the daily intelligence briefing, an economic daily briefing and then huddling with senior advisers.

He later hosted Japanese Prime Minister Taro Asso at the White House. He then began a meeting with Secretary of Defense Bob Gates about four hours before leaving for Capitol Hill.

The next year, and every year after that, Mr. Obama limited his schedule to the daily intelligence briefing and sometimes a meeting with then-Vice President Joseph R. Biden or White House senior staff.

Still, Mr. Trump had more packed into his pre-speech schedule.

After receiving the daily intelligence briefing, Mr. Trump met with the National Association of Attorneys General, although he canceled scheduled remarks to the group.

“Some great people,” the president said as he greeted about 25 attorneys general in attendance.

Later he signed two bills into law.

At a separate event, he signed two executive order.

First, Mr. Trump signed an executive order that nixes a controversial Obama administration rule know as “Waters of the U.S.” that expanded the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority over state and local waterways.

At another White House ceremony, the president signed an executive order aimed at boosting federal support for historically black colleges.

Before leaving for the Capitol, Mr. Trump met with the guests that first lady Melania Trump invited to sit with her in the House gallery for the speech.

All in a day’s work, said Mr. McLaughlin.

“He’ll be fine,” he said. “This guy has mastered television. He did it on ‘The Apprentice.’ He did it for the campaign. He’s got a talent for connecting with the middle class.”



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