New York Times' Maggie Haberman: Trump "Is a Whirlwind of One"
The White House correspondent who reported on White House disarray has received many calls from the president as she covers his administration and weathers the barbs: "This is the business. It's not personal."
Maggie Haberman, the New York Times White House correspondent and CNN political analyst, has emerged (along with her colleague Glenn Thrush) as one of the most incisive chroniclers of the Trump White House. In a Feb. 5 piece, Haberman, 43, a married mother of three young children, and Thrush described White House disarray such as aides holding meetings in dark cabinet rooms because they couldn’t find the light switches and Trump watching cable TV alone at night in his bathrobe. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer declared the piece “riddled with inaccuracies and lies” and “blatant factual errors,” asserting that the president “definitely does not own [a bathrobe].” The latter set off a Twitter meme, spurring users to post vintage pictures of Trump lolling about in a bathrobe. Haberman, who made her journalistic bones covering local politics for New York tabloids the Daily News and the Post, said she never heard from the administration about the bathrobe story. But she has since had multiple calls with Trump, including one on March 24, the evening House Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the disastrous health care bill after a revolt between hard-line conservatives and more moderate Republicans.
When you interview Trump, do you get the sense that he is actually listening to your questions and trying to answer them or just doing his shtick?
I try to keep the questions as bare bones as possible because one of the things that political reporters are used to doing with elected officials in general is asking multipart questions. And we saw this at the first press conference that he did in Trump Tower. People would ask these four-part questions. He seized onto one piece and then that's it. But I also find it's interesting to let him talk because as he is talking, he is going to make it clear where his thinking is. Like before I had even asked him anything about the moderate versus conservative civil war within the Republican Party [over the health care bill], he mentioned, unprompted, that the [moderate] Tuesday Group was quote/unquote "terrific." And that was to me, and certainly what we have seen since in the tweets, an implicit dig at the House Freedom Caucus, again, without my asking. He does sort of riff when you talk to him, but he usually has a general concept going in of what he wants to tell you.
How many hours a day do you generally work?
I don't count. I have no idea. It begins in the morning and it ends some time around eleven at night. I mean, this is a campaign pace. I've never seen anything like this. Everybody thought it was going to slow down during the transition. Nope. Then everybody thought it was going to slow down during the first few days. Nope. Trump creates and then feeds off the energy he creates, and that's what we're seeing here.
What's it like when he tweets at you or attacks you personally?
Oh it's all part of the business. Yes, it's over Twitter but elected officials have been yelling at reporters for a very long time. I covered Rudy Giuliani’s City Hall, I remember Mike Bloomberg calling a then-New York Observer reporter a disgrace at a press conference. There really is very little that's actually new under the sun. The medium is just new. This is the business, this is what happens.
So it doesn't ever bother you, you just take it in stride?
You can't. It's not personal. It’s just part of how this goes.
How has the pace and the volume of news affected how you live your life?
Not well! (Laughs.) It's a lot. I mean look, the campaign was very intense. He is a whirlwind of one. And so the coverage was morning to night during the campaign. The White House has been the same.
And do you think about how long you can keep up this pace?
Yes, but I don't have the answer yet. I'll get back to you. Look, 2012 was pretty crazy. Alex Burns — my colleague at Politico and now here at the Times — and I did a blog together. And it's intense. But my kids were much smaller then and it's easier to do with smaller kids. They're really aware when I'm not around now, and so that's challenging. This is a particularly rough stretch. Look, some of this is on me. I also have to develop the ability to put my phone down. They're all busy days! I mean at a certain point you have to adjust and I haven't yet.
It’s no secret that Trump has been very antagonistic to many groups, one of them being women. Do you ever struggle with that?
He is a story like any other story. Our job is not to insert ourselves into the story, despite what I'm doing right now by talking to you about coverage. I hate to keep coming back to this but, like, this is not my first rodeo. It might be the noisiest rodeo …
Do you ever think about what it would be like if Hillary had won?
Yes. I wouldn't be covering the White House. (Laughs.) That would be that. I would have a saner life. Yes, I do think about that.