Maybe we would all be better off if Mr. Obama just stayed on the golf course. As Dana Milbank writes in The Washington Post, “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.” With the growing sense from the majority of Americans that Obama does not understand their problems, Obama’s playing “a rich man’s game” only aggravates his out-of-touch reputation. As CBS News’s Mark Knoller notes, Bush played golf 24 times while in the White House. Obama has played 177 times to date.
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 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’s 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.