In regard to recent news that President Obama in just 15 months has golfed far more frequently than did Mr. Bush in eight years — and the press’s rather tame response to that incongruity — I remember the 2002–3 press criticism about Bush on the links.
For example, in this 2002 Washington Post story by Mike Allen — “Before Golf, Bush Decries Latest Deaths in the Mideast” — we get a good helping of sarcasm:
It’s a ritual when President Bush golfs: As he gets ready to tee off, reporters toss out a few questions about the news of the day from their perches on a nearby sand trap. This morning, Bush wasn’t waiting. He sprang from his golf cart at 6:15 a.m. and said he was “distressed to hear about the latest suicide bombers in Israel.” And Bush, wearing khakis and a knit shirt, was holding a driver in his gloved left hand. The rest of his foursome, including his father, former president George H.W. Bush, was waiting. However incongruous the setting, the president plunged ahead.
And, of course, there was more about the distracted golfer apparently unconcerned with issues of the day:
His business out of the way, Bush barely paused for breath before saying, “Thank you. Now watch this drive.”…The abrupt segue illustrates the dilemma Bush will face over the next month as he relaxes and works at his ranch in Crawford, Tex., at a time of global political volatility. On Tuesday, Bush will leave Washington behind until Labor Day. That is likely to mean a return to the golf-cart diplomacy of last summer, when Bush talked Middle East peace between playing holes, at one point dripping sweat as he said Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat “can do a lot more to be convincing the people on the street to stop these acts of terrorism.”
All this could be replayed ad nauseam on topics as diverse as the relative frequency of news conferences in the Bush and Obama administrations to the relative comparison of the mangling of presidential vocabulary — quite aside from the important press scrutiny of presidential promise-keeping and policy. Each week, the press, in its efforts to support what it feels is a noble agenda of Obama, ever so insidiously has sacrificed what was left of its reputation for fair reporting.
Final question? Does President Obama even meet and talk with reporters on the links so they can write the above sort of golf-cart-diplomacy narratives?