The Corner

Populist Golfing

The point of remarking on Obama’s avid golfing has nothing to do whether golf is good or bad, aristocratic or hoi polloi, suitable for a president in time of war or not; the question is one of consistency and hypocrisy. Bush was derided by cultural elites (as they derided Eisenhower) when he suited up to hit the links, as in this Washington Post take: “In public, Bush often engaged in playful banter. Reporters teased him about his golf game and whether he would take an afternoon nap.”

The narrative was that he was still a preppie rich kid, to play such a leisured sport, or else it was that he was insufficiently serious and engaged at a time when young men were dying. Even when Bush gave up golf in 2003 (e.g., “I don’t want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the commander in chief playing golf”), he was derided for that gesture as well. At the time, Robert Dalleck said it “speak[s] to his shallowness. That’s his idea of sacrifice, to give up golf?”

Now that Barack Obama, another wartime president, has golfed more in 20 months than Bush did in eight years, the storyline has mysteriously changed to one of needed relaxation for such an otherwise engaged, hands-on people’s president.

The other problem is that this populist, anti–Wall Street president (“redistributive change,” “spread the wealth,” “at a certain point you’ve made enough money,” etc.) posed as the antithesis of the country-club set, with their incessant golfing at exclusive links, Martha’s Vineyard and Costa del Sol vacations, and so on. His golfing feeds into an image of progressives enjoying the sort of perks that not spreading the wealth reserves to the privileged few. We’re back to Orwell’s revolutionary pigs walking farmer-like on two legs.

Victor Davis Hanson — NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won.

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