Media Cheer Obama's Golf Outings; Criticized Republicans' Trips to Course
June 22, 2009 - 6:48 PMPresident Barack Obama has gone to the golf course at least 11 times since he took the oath of office a little more than six months ago – three rounds were played during the late January, 12-day holiday Obama took with his family in Hawaii; one at Andrews Air Force Base; and seven at Ft. Belvoir Golf Course, including a round on Sunday, Father's Day, with Vice President Joe Biden.
These 11 rounds played by the president are documented through media reports of his golf trips. The White House press office told CNSNews.com that to confirm every round of golf played by the president since he took office would take “hours” because the only records kept are those sent to the media through e-mails that are not posted on the White House Web site because they are for media planning only.
Despite ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, ongoing violence in Iran, and an economy that Obama has described as the worst since the Great Depression, the president has golfed multiple times in the past several weeks--on April 26, May 16, May 25, May 31, June 7, June 9, June 14 and June 21.
Obama’s golf outings have generated favorable reports from the media, in contrast to his predecessor, George W. Bush.
On Aug. 5, 2002, The Washington Post wrote about President Bush golfing near his parents’ home in Kennebunkport, Maine. Under the headline “Before Golf, Bush Decries Latest Deaths in Mideast,” staff writer Mike Allen described Bush as he “sprang from his golf cart at 6:15 a.m. and said he was distressed to hear about the latest suicide bombers in Israel.”
“Bush, wearing khakis and a knit shirt, was holding a driver in his gloved left hand,” Allen wrote.
“However incongruous the setting, the president plunged ahead,” Allen wrote.
“There are a few killers who want to stop the peace process that we have started, and we must not let them,” he [Bush] said. “I call upon all nations to do everything they can to stop these terrorist killers.”
“His business out of the way,” Allen wrote, “Bush barely paused for breath before saying, ‘Thank you. Now watch this drive.’”
A search of news reports on Nexis revealed that photographers, but not reporters have access to Obama when he is on the links. But his outings have been covered, including by The Washington Post on June 9, 2009, in an article with the headline “Just the Sport for A Leader Most Driven.”
“What’s the deal? Why golf?” Post staff writer Richard Leiby wrote. “The attraction seems to be simple. It’s a great escape; the game demands such attention that nothing else matters. It’s time spent with friends, an unhurried afternoon in loose clothing (shorts seem to be Obama’s preference).”
Leiby continued, “To some, Obama’s frequent outings reflect a cool self-confidence.”
Leiby even quoted a sports psychologist who said Obama seemed able to play golf despite the grim reports by the media about the wars and the economy.
In August 2003, Bush said he decided to stop playing golf to show his respect for the men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and their families.
“I don’t want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the commander in chief playing golf,” Bush said in an interview with Politico and Yahoo News on May 13, 2008. “I feel I owe it to the families to be in solidarity as best I can with them. And I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal.”
Bush said he made the decision after the August 2003 bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, which killed Sergio Vieira de Mello, the top U.N. official in Iraq and the organization’s high commissioner of human rights. He was golfing when he got the news.
“I was playing golf--I think I was in central Texas--and they pulled me off the golf course and I said, ‘It’s just not worth it anymore to do.’”
Bush was criticized for giving up golf, including by presidential historian Robert Dallek who was quoted in a May 14, 2008 article in The Washington Post.
Dallek said Bush’s remarks about Iraq “speak to his shallowness.” Dallek added: “That's his idea of sacrifice, to give up golf?”
Bush’s father, President George H.W. Bush, also was criticized for golfing in a time of war.
In an Aug. 3, 2006 article in USA Today entitled “No Rest for the President,” it noted that George W. Bush cut his summer vacation to 10 days because of the ongoing crisis in the Middle East, and a sidebar reviewed other presidential vacations.
Among other things, the sidebar said, “George H.W. Bush: In 1990, Bush was criticized for playing golf and fishing at his Kennebunkport, Maine, summer home and seeming indifferent as U.S. troops were being deployed to the Persian Gulf in anticipation of a war with Iraq.”
Obama golfed on May 25 after he spoke and placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery on Memorial Day. Presidential aides told the media that Obama observed a moment of silence at 3 p.m. while on the links.
Obama also played golf on June 7, the day he returned from his trip to Egypt and Germany, where he visited Holocaust concentration camps, and Normandy, France, where as many as 6,000 American troops died when Allied Forces invaded the country during World War II.
“With his wife and daughters still in France, the president ducked out of the White House 90 minutes after getting home and headed out to the Andrews Air Force Base course with his clubs to enjoy a round, with skies only partly cloudy and temperatures about 80 degrees,” United Press International reported on June 7.
The following U.S. troops died in Iraq and Afghanistan while Obama was on golf outings, according to records of U.S. troop casualties kept by the Department of Defense:
-- Spc. David A. Schaefer Jr., 27, of Belleville, Ill., died May 16 in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his unit. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 172nd Infantry Brigade, Schweinfurt, Germany.
--Cmdr. Duane G. Wolfe, 54, of Port Hueneme, Calif., died May 25 from injuries suffered as a result of an improvised explosive device attack on his convoy southeast of Fallujah. Wolfe was assigned to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Gulf Region Division in Iraq.
-- Spc. Eduardo S. Silva, 25, of Greenfield, Calif., died June 9 at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, of a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to the 563rd Aviation Support Battalion, 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky. The circumstances surrounding the incident are under investigation.