Beltway Gets All Riled Up Over Obama's Golf Game

Obama plays a round with a female staffer; debate ensues

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President Obama's golf game has piqued the chattering classes. On Sunday, he invited his chief domestic policy adviser, Melody Barnes, to join him on the links. (He had been criticized for playing sports only with his male staffers.) Pundits consequently made gender equity and presidential leisure time the topics du jour. Mark Knoller, CBS reporter and political fact freak, even made it an occasion for a comparison with Bush, noting that Obama played as many rounds of golf in his first 11 months as Bush did during his entire administration.

Perhaps as a measure of how beloved golf is on the Beltway, the president's Sunday outing spawned a heap of commentary. The standout thoughts:

  • Male Chauvinism Alert, writes Lynn Sweet in the Chicago Sun-Times: "Is there a frat boy or 'boys club' atmosphere in the White House? Yes, there is, I've been told by a few high-level female staffers who are aware that at the highest levels in the White House, Obama huddles most intensely with men. Senior adviser Valerie Jarrett is the exception."
  • Let's Put This in Perspective, writes Yael T. Abouhalkah at the Kansas City Star: "Yes, Obama deserves some razzies for not asking women to play basketball, golf or any other sport with him since he's become president. In the world of networking, rubbing sweaty elbows with the President of the United States on the basketball court must be worth something. As is playing a friendly 18-holer on a fall afternoon. But now, can we get back to some of the more serious business of the nation? Climate control, anyone? Health care reform?"
  • In This Respect, Obama's Faring Better Than Bush, notes David Jackson in USA Today: "Previously, Bush's mixing of golf and foreign policy had gotten him into trouble. On Aug. 4, 2002, standing near the first tee, Bush made a solemn statement on a suicide bombing in Israel, then announced to assembled reporters: 'Thank you, now watch this drive.' Michael Moore put the scene in his anti-Bush film, Fahrenheit 911. As for the current president, Don Van Natta, Jr. -- who did a book on presidents and golf -- has a piece on Obama's game in the latest in Golf Digest. Van Natta writes that, 'Obama approaches the game in the same way that he conducts his politics -- maniacally methodical, aggressively competitive and devoutly risk-averse.'"
  • "This Is a Good Thing," jokes Michael Tomasky in The Guardian: "I, too, played a round of golf with a woman Sunday. She putted lights-out -- a truly impressive display. Golf being mostly a mental game, questions of physical strength and so forth don't matter as much. With regard to basketball, we might say things are a little different. Surely, there are WNBA players by the dozens who could no doubt school Obama, or any 48-year-old man. So maybe he should try it. But the risk of a photograph getting out of a "girl" slapping a jumper back in his fence is probably too great."
  • Phew! sighs Glynnis MacNicol at Mediaite: "That is a whole lot of high profile, politicized golf mentions for one weekend! The last time this much attention was spent on Presidential leisure time was during the Obama’s Martha’s Vineyard vacation, which also happens to be the week many people feel the White House lost control of the narrative. So, yeah. Get ready, because there is only so much White House vs. Fox News a news cycle can take and ‘the President plays too much sexist golf’ seems set to nicely fill in the gaps in the week to come."
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