Obama, ‘willing to try anything,’ goes golfing with Republican senators


President Obama with Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) as they play golf on the first hole at Andrews Air Force Base. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

First came a fancy dinner in which President Obama treated Republican senators to lobster thermidor and Colorado lamb açaí. Then came phone calls, Oval Office meetings and more dinners. Finally on Monday, Obama took his charm offensive onto the golf course.

“Well,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters, “he’s willing to try anything.”

With deals on the budget and other pillars of his second-term agenda still elusive, Obama on Monday continued his “inside game” of trying to broker compromises by personally engaging with willing lawmakers. At least once a week, Carney said, Obama has been talking to Republican senators “looking to get things done.”

Later this week, however, Obama is scheduled to ramp up his “outside game” — staging the first in a series of public events across the country designed to jump-start his second-term economic agenda.

Obama plans to travel Thursday to Austin, where the tech-sector jobs market has been booming, to kick off his “Middle Class Jobs & Opportunity Tour.” Carney said the trip is designed to highlight an economic success story “in spite of some of the obstacles that we face here in Washington to do the right thing.”

Carney addressed the dichotomy between Obama’s efforts to put public pressure on the same lawmakers that he is mingling with on the golf course.

“I get asked a lot about ‘inside game-outside game,’” Carney said on Monday. “You know, he has long engaged in both. He’s having one-on-one conversations, group conversations, meals, golf games, hard-headed negotiations with legislators. And he is going out to the country talking to regular folks out there about the issues that matter to them, and about the need for them to speak up and engage in a process to demand that Congress take action.”

Obama talks to Republican senators at least once a week, Carney said, “looking to get things done.”

On Monday afternoon, under cloudy skies and an occasional light drizzle, Obama went golfing at Andrews Air Force Base as part of a bipartisan foursome. Sens. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) — all of whom have said they are open to reaching a long-term accord to reduce the deficit — joined Obama on the links.

Paired off by party, the Republican duo won, with Chambliss sinking a hole-in-one on the 11th green, according to a White House aide.

“We had a delightful day of golf with folks who enjoy playing the game,” Chambliss said in a statement. “We talked some business, but it was mainly a day for everyone to get away from the office for a little while.”

Corker said in a statement that “anytime you can get the president’s ear for a few hours, I think that’s a good thing.”

White House aides, who typically prevent the media from seeing Obama play golf, allowed journalists to photograph and observe a portion of the game. This was not a typical presidential foursome; Obama usually golfs with aides and friends. In 120 rounds of golf as president, Obama has played with lawmakers only three times — twice with Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) and once with House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) — according to Mark Knoller of CBS News, who keeps copious records of such things.

“He will, I’m sure, make a pitch for his policy agenda,” Carney said as the golf game got under way. “He’s looking for partners anywhere he can find them, including, you know, on the eighth hole.”

Ed O’Keefe contributed to this report.

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