Why President Obama’s golf habit doesn’t matter

at 12:45 PM ET, 06/18/2012

President Obama achieved a milestone (of sorts) on Sunday: He played his 100th round of golf since being sworn in three and a half years ago.


President Barack Obama swings to hit the ball out of a sand trap while playing golf at the Vineyard Golf Club, in Edgartown, Mass., on the island of Martha's Vineyard, Friday, Aug. 19, 2011. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

CBS News’ Mark Knoller, the (un)official keeper of the White House records, commemorated the moment with — what else — a tweet:

The White House Dossier’s Keith Koffler noted that Obama played golf 28 times in 2009, 30 times in 2010, and 34 times in 2011. The president Father’s Day round was his eighth so far in 2012.

Republicans pounced. The Republican National Committee put out a press release headlined “Duffer-In-Chief: Obama Hits 100” — with a series of stories detailing Obama’s love for the links.

Others noted that then President George W. Bush played only 24 rounds of golf during his eight years in the White House and famously forswore golf in 2003 “in solidarity” with the men and women fighting in foreign wars.

Koffler added that:

“Obama’s golfing takes about five hours, including the motorcades back and forth from the fairways. If one thinks of this as taking up much of the day – include getting ready to go and cooling off afterward – its fair to say that Obama has spent more than three months of his presidency golfing.”

For all the foofaraw, however, the idea that President Obama’s golf habit somehow speaks to a broader lack of seriousness in office is an issue that resounds strongly in the Republican base but has limited political reach beyond those hardcore GOPers.

If you don’t like President Obama and think he is ill-suited to the job he currently has — and there are lots of people who feel that way — then the idea that he has played 100 rounds of golf will drive you crazy. (Ditto Obama’s use of a TelePrompter or, for Democrats, President Bush’s tendency to visit his Texas ranch.)

If you like the President, you are almost certain to see golf as a much-needed moment of catharsis for a man who, literally, has the weight of the world on his shoulders. Obama himself has said that golfing makes him “almost feel normal” and that “it’s the only time for six hours...that I’m outside.”

(Sidebar: The Fix is a big believer in exercise as catharsis. If we didn’t play pickup basketball a few times a week — at least — we would be intolerable. Or more intolerable than we already are.)

And, if you are an independent or an unaffiliated voter, you almost certainly don’t know about Obama’s golf habit — and if you do know you likely don’t care. You care about the state of the economy. And whether things are getting better — or going to get better — for you and your family.

To be clear, the White House isn’t actively touting Obama’s golfing trips — aware that the visuals of a President engaging in a sport many people feel is only for the affluent isn’t ideal.

But the idea that the President’s golf habits are a voting issue for anyone who hasn’t long ago made up their mind about whether Obama deserves a second term is far-fetched.

 
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