Sunday, August 24, 2014

About Golfing and Vacations

Over the past year or so, there has been a rising level of criticism of President Obama over the amount of time he spends golfing and about the alleged frequency and lavishness of his vacations. This reached a crescendo a few days back when the President briefly interrupted his vacation to express his outrage about an American photographer, James Foley, being beheaded by ISIS, and then followed up his comments by, uh, going golfing.
President Obama returned to the golf course on Saturday amid mounting Republican criticism that he is spending too much time hitting the links during several international and domestic crises. 
The early criticism came almost entirely from Republicans, it's true, but now Democrats are joining in, as the New York Times (a publication usually solidly in Obama's camp) noted:
But the criticism went beyond the usual political opponents. Privately, many Democrats shook their heads at what they considered a judgment error. Ezra Klein, editor in chief of the online news site Vox, who is normally sympathetic to Mr. Obama, wrote on Twitter on Wednesday that “golfing today is in bad taste.” The Daily News published a front-page photograph of a grinning president in a golf cart next to a picture of Mr. Foley’s distraught mother and father under the headline, “Prez tees off as Foley’s parents grieve.” 
And if it's only Republicans, then Maureen Dowd must have switched parties:
FORE! Score? And seven trillion rounds ago, our forecaddies brought forth on this continent a new playground, conceived by Robert Trent Jones, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal when it comes to spending as much time on the links as possible — even when it seems totally inappropriate, like moments after making a solemn statement condemning the grisly murder of a 40-year-old American journalist beheaded by ISIL. 
I know reporters didn’t get a chance to ask questions, but I had to bounce. I had a 1 p.m. tee time at Vineyard Golf Club with Alonzo Mourning and a part-owner of the Boston Celtics. Hillary and I agreed when we partied with Vernon Jordan up here, hanging out with celebrities and rich folks is fun. 
Now we are engaged in a great civil divide in Ferguson, which does not even have a golf course, and that’s why I had a “logistical” issue with going there. We are testing whether that community, or any community so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure when the nation’s leader wants nothing more than to sink a birdie putt.
There are also, of course, people defending Obama. And if I thought the criticisms of golfing and vacations were really about golfing and vacations, I would agree with the defenders. Hey, it's a tough job and everybody has a right to unwind.

But I don't think that golf and vacations are anything more than symbols, being used as stand-ins for a wider but more difficult-to-define complaint – that Barack Obama is distant and out of touch with the American people and, worse, disengaged and even disinterested in being president.
Howard Kurtz stole what I was thinking about and wrote earlier this week:
It started with the ObamaCare debacle and continued through his seeming passivity or slow reaction time in the wake of the VA scandal, the Bowe Bergdahl mess, the military collapse in Iraq and so on …. 
What is striking now is a growing sense, fairly or unfairly, that Obama is not capable of rising to the occasion, that he just doesn’t like politics, that he’s disengaged, that despite his soaring rhetoric in 2008 he has a passion deficit.
I have often thought (and may have written here previously) that Obama resigned a year ago, and just forgot to tell anybody. It seems a lot of people, of both parties, are coming to the same conclusion.

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