With turmoil in Israel, American bombs falling in Iraq, an immigration crisis at our border, and a Congress that’s an executive order away from impeaching, Politico Magazine (ask your parents what a “magazine” is) has decided to devote a 2,700-word cover story to President Obama’s golf game. Coincidentally, Obama’s golf game is a favorite subject of Fox News, and also Matt Drudge, who keeps a periodic tally of the President’s outings.
Naked wingnut linkbait or not, though, Michael Hirsh’s “Our Lonely First Duffer” promises to glean insights about Obama from his time on the links. For example:
“Though a mediocre golfer, Obama is believed to be an honest scorekeeper, which perhaps should reassure us — if only a little — about the official statements coming out of his White House.”
“He is also known for maintaining his preternaturally calm demeanor on the course as well as off.”
“It has become, more and more, Obama’s refuge from public life — and, perhaps, from what even some friendlier critics are wondering will be seen as a partially failed presidency.”
Shocking, isn’t it? Obama doesn’t cheat, he’s calm like he always is, and he plays golf to relax. Oh, from his “failed presidency.”
But the bulk of the article is devoted to the devastating, painstakingly researched fact that President Obama prefers golfing with his friends! Let me know when you’ve wiped that spray of beverage off of your computer monitor. The significance of this breathtaking scoop is expounded upon at great length, but you can save a lot of time by skipping to its conclusion:
Obama is acutely aware of the criticisms, and his answers often betray a defensiveness about his schmooze-gene deficiency that only seems to confirm the truth of it. “There is one thing that bothers me, which is when I hear folks saying, oh, you know, if you just play golf with John Boehner more — and we’re just trying harder to be more bipartisan, then we’d get more stuff done,” the president told reporters recently. “That’s not the problem. On every issue we are more than happy to sit down in reasonable fashion and compromise. The problem is not that we’re too mean or we’re too partisan. The problem is I don’t have enough votes — full stop.”
Actually that’s not full stop. The problem is that this president doesn’t seem to possess the skills or the desire to get enough votes — full stop. He certainly hasn’t tried very hard to woo wayward members of the opposite party, as many presidents before him have done. And he’s certainly not going to make much progress by spending five hours a day addressing a little white ball — and no one else — on Martha’s Vineyard.
What Hirsh fails to grasp is that President Obama isn’t the one who has trouble reaching out to his opponents. As Hirsh mentions, the President did play golf with House Speaker John Boehner, and for his trouble, Boehner has been slagging him on the stump for it. Even at the time, the Speaker’s office derided the notion that the game could have any deeper significance. Meanwhile, over 200 Republicans, including Boehner, snubbed one fairly recent presidential invitation, as they have over and over again during Obama’s presidency. Although he acknowledges the “undercurrent of racism that has dogged his presidency,” Hirsh places the blame on Obama for his failure, as Hirsh sees it, to “belong.”
As far as it goes, Obama’s golf game seems to tell us more about his friends and foes than it does about him, but this exercise is also telling of the Beltway press that Politico leads around by the morning meeting. The best way to learn about President Obama is to spend years covering and researching him, not counting up his golf buddies. If you’re going to pick a game to dissect Obama with, as any reasonably astute observer can tell you, it’s poker. Although not the President’s favorite game, not to the extent that golf is, his fairly well-known style of play (skilled, but cautious) says a lot more about him than his golf scorecard.
For years, Republicans have been firing piles of chips at every pot, but President Obama plays the cards, sometimes a bit too closely, but with a keen understanding that the game never ends, and your wins aren’t nearly as important as the losses you avoid.