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The President Takes a Bogey
Is Obama a president playing golf, or a golfer playing president?


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Jonah Goldberg

I’ve figured out Obama. He’s not a Muslim, he’s a golfer!

That’s a reference to Russell Kirk’s semi-famous retort to the conspiratorial nuts who insisted that Dwight Eisenhower was a secret Commie. The revered conservative intellectual responded disdainfully, “Ike’s not a Communist, he’s a golfer.”

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For the record, while I think the media’s special standard for Democratic presidents’ recreation is outrageous, I really don’t care that Obama plays a lot of golf.

And he does play a lot. In his first year in office, Obama played more rounds of golf than George W. Bush did in two full terms. He’s now close to tripling Bush’s eight-year total, though that’s misleading since Bush vowed to stop golfing in 2003 because “playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signals.”

That clarifies the golf stats, but not exactly in Obama’s favor since we’re still at war and the president has been nothing if not abundantly clear that he considers himself a greater moral exemplar than his predecessor.

Perhaps it’s Obama’s conspicuous duffing that inspired New York Times columnist and White House confidant David Brooks to write that we are in a new Ike Age.

“During the first two years,” Brooks writes, the administration “hewed to Kennedy’s seize-the-moment style. Now it seems to be copying the Eisenhower mood.”

Really? The “Eisenhower mood” is an awfully charitable way to describe a president who seems to be playing hooky when he’s not hiding under his desk.

The real problem for Obama is not that he likes his exercise. It’s that he’s acting like an employee who thinks he’s too good for the job.

Obama has always been offended by criticism, finding it somehow illegitimate to disagree with him. But his frustration is getting the better of him. The New York Times reports that “Mr. Obama has told people that it would be so much easier to be the president of China. As one official put it, ‘No one is scrutinizing Hu Jintao’s words in Tahrir Square.’”

What an inconvenience it must be that the world looks to America for leadership when people are sacrificing their lives to fight tyranny. I don’t remember reading that Eisenhower whined about Mao having it so much easier than he did.

The Eisenhower mood was consonant with Eisenhower’s statecraft. Ike was like a duck, gliding smoothly on the lake surface while working tirelessly below eye level to get where he needed to go. I’m open to evidence that Obama is working tirelessly behind the scenes, but where exactly does he think he’s going? 

Yes, yes, I know he says we’re on course to “win the future” with high-speed rail and enough windmills to lift the continental shelf. But what does any of this nonsense have to do with the turmoil around us? Calm is always good, but calmly checking out during a crisis is inexcusable.

I do not subscribe to the mythology of the 1950s as an uncomplicated time. But it was a confident and prosperous time, and an avuncular war-hero president taking to the links sent the signal that the commander-in-chief had everything well in hand, not that he was fed up with the job.

Obama’s full-spectrum passivity simply is not the same thing, because we do not live in the same world. On the budget and questions of our long-term fiscal survival, he’s AWOL. On Libya, he talks as if we’re doing everything in our power to “tighten the noose” on Qaddafi, while it’s very clear that tightening the noose means running out the clock. Gas prices are skyrocketing, but all Obama does is claim credit for increased oil production that entered the pipeline under his predecessor.



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