PRESIDENT OBAMA

Does President Obama play too much golf?

 

@Milbank

On June 14, Sunni rebels threatened Baghdad after seizing much of Iraq — and President Obama fearlessly played a round at the Sunnylands Golf Course in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

The next day, the militants posted pictures of their mass execution of Shiite members of Iraq’s security forces — and Obama boldly teed off again, at Oracle founder Larry Ellison’s Rancho Mirage estate.

These split-screen scenes were reminiscent of the weekend in March when Russia was about to annex Crimea. Obama played golf both Saturday and Sunday at Key Largo, Fla.’s Ocean Reef resort with former NBA star Alonzo Mourning and former NFL player Ahmad Rashad.

It’s enough to make one wish the president would take up a different pastime — say, stamp collecting.

Yes, a president needs down time. And, yes, he can run the country whether he’s in a sand trap or the Situation Room. But Obama’s golf habit needlessly hands his critics a gimme.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney, writing in the Wall Street Journal with his daughter Liz, complained: “Terrorists take control of more territory and resources than ever before in history, and he goes golfing.” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers gave a TV interview asking Obama to “please come back from the golf course” and find an Iraq solution.

Is golf really so important that Obama is willing to handicap his political standing? Evidently so. On Tuesday evening, Obama hosted Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Davis Love III, Ernie Els and other pro golfers in the East Room of the White House at a reception for the 2013 Presidents Cup players. “Last year was the second time I’ve been honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup. The United States won both times. I’m just saying,” Obama joked.

I was one of the many who had fun with George W. Bush’s classic tee shot in 2002: “I call upon all nations to do everything they can to stop these terrorist killers. Thank you. Now watch this drive.” But as The Washington Post’s Colby Itkowitz noted, Bush hung up his spikes after the Iraq invasion. (He busied himself with other leisure pursuits, such as clearing brush.) CBS News’ Mark Knoller, the unofficial statistician of presidential activities, reports that Bush played golf only 24 times while in the White House; Obama is up to 177 and now has a round-a-week habit.

The image problem isn’t from leisure activity per se but the type of leisure activity. A majority of Americans now believes that Obama doesn’t understand their problems, and images of him playing golf — perceived, fairly or not, as a rich man’s game — confirms this out-of-touch reputation.

This is similar to the problem that dogged Mitt Romney, and now Hillary Clinton. The Post’s Philip Rucker this week noted that influential Democrats are concerned that her “rarefied, cloistered lifestyle could jeopardize the Democratic Party’s historic edge with the middle class.” Images of Obama lining up his putt undermine his attempts to play the populist, which he has done this year on unemployment insurance, the minimum wage and income-inequality.

The game has driven another wedge between the president and White House reporters who, during their turns on pool duty, chronicle with envy his weekly outings with friends and aides.

“Beautiful day for hitting the links,” the Washington Examiner’s Susan Crabtree wrote from Fort Belvoir. “Unfortunately pool is headed to the base rec center for the duration.”

“Looked like a nice place to play golf,” wrote the Houston Chronicle’s Kevin Diaz from the “exclusive” Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Va., “at least from the maintenance shed where pool spent the day.”

Obama has replaced basketball with golf as his “go-to sport,” in part to avoid injury, Politico reports. At a White House event on sports concussions last month, the president spoke of the therapeutic benefits of his time on the links: “When I need to relax and clear my head, I turn to sports, whether it’s a pick-up basketball game … or more sedate pastimes like golf, or watching SportsCenter. 

Democrats probably wish, for the sake of appearance, that Obama would devote more time to ESPN and less to golf. But if the optics of manicured greens and country clubs worry Democrats, they should consider themselves lucky he didn’t take up polo.

© 2014, Washington Post

Writers Group

Read more Other Views stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
MCT

    ADJUNCT PROFESSORS

    The dirty little secret on campus

    We are the stoop laborers of higher education: adjunct professors.

  •  
MCT

    Surviving in school

    You can get through high school in one piece

    I spend most of my day listening. As a high school guidance counselor, I encourage teenagers to talk. Feeling stressed, they say, is their automatic response to demanding teachers, parents’ high expectations and the drama of shifting friendship alliances.

  •  
GARCIA

    Tech’s upside outweighs downside

    As schools in South Florida begin to introduce Apple iPads and other mobile devices into their curricula, students are thrilled to arrived for class without a 20-pound monster of a bag on their backs. Why do they need to purchase new binders or a fresh set of erasers? What more do they need besides a computer repair or a new iPad case?

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category