Rightbloggers' Long Obsession with Obama and Golf -- And Why It's Finally Paying Off
Maureen Dowd, recently adopted as a "narrative journalist" by the New York Times Magazine , did a Sunday column about how Obama likes to golf even when bad things are happening (that is, anytime). "FORE! Score? And seven trillion rounds ago," the column began, and did not improve thereafter.
But as with her famous pot-candy bummer, Dowd is way behind the curve. Her Obama golf column was preceded by years of rightblogger rages against the President's pastime, which flared again this week as he vacationed in Martha's Vineyard.
The earliest example we can find of a rightblogger criticizing Obama's golfing is Freedom Eden's on April 26, 2009: "The swine flu has the makings of a pandemic. Mexico is in a state of panic. And what does the almighty Obama do? He plays golf."
A more sweeping indictment came on June 22, 2009, from Penny Starr of CNS News: "Media Cheer Obama's Golf Outings; Criticized Republicans' Trips to Course."
"President Barack Obama has gone to the golf course at least 11 times since he took the oath of office a little more than six months ago," reported Starr; "...These 11 rounds played by the president are documented through media reports of his golf trips." And that was just what the White House let slip! Starr also provided a list of "U.S. troops [who] died in Iraq and Afghanistan while Obama was on golf outings."
"Obama Has Shot 41 Rounds of Golf as President," reported Keith Koffler at White House Dossier in July 2010, "...possibly damaging his ability to portray himself in 2012 as a populist advocate of average folks... Since the April 20 explosion that killed 11 rig workers and started the Gulf oil spill, Obama has teed up seven times... Obama's focus on golf borders on obsession."
In March 2011 at American Thinker, Betsy M. Galliher suggested all Americans were now Obama's "golf widows": "His incessant golfing isn't just insensitive," she wrote. "The baseball cap and shorts don't just reveal his immaturity." (Presumably responsible golfers wear three-piece suits on the links.) "As any golf widow knows, it's the need to escape while those around him cannot, that is so irksome. He either believes his actions have no bearing on what's happening, or he simply doesn't care." We'd love to see how she'd describe Obama watching a funny movie, or having sex.
That same month Japan was rocked by an earthquake and a tsunami, and PunditPawn reacted, "Obama Golfs While Japan Burns." "I think it's particularly inappropriate for Obama to be out golfing not much more than 24 hours after the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan... He appears so detached and self-centered," said Freedom Eden.
Later that year a volcanic ash cloud prevented Obama from flying to attend the funeral of Polish president Lech Kaczynski. This is how Cassy Fiano portrayed this situation at Hot Air: "Obama couldn't blow off the funeral without making it look like the major insult that it would have been," she wrote. "Fortunately for him, the volcanic eruption in Iceland gave him a perfect excuse. He cancelled and he spent that extra time yesterday playing golf instead of mourning with our friends in Poland." What a bastard, taking advantage of a natural disaster like that! "Golf Much More Fun Than A Polish Funeral," headlined Greg Pollowitz at National Review.
"It's time to have a president whose idea of being 'hands on' doesn't mean getting a better grip on the golf club," said fortyfore.com, a Mitt Romney campaign fundraising website in late 2011.
In 2012, U.S News and World Report noted "the conservative American Future Fund," perhaps hoping to amplify Mitt Romney's populist appeal, had created a Pinterest page devoted to the "stunning and exclusive golf courses Obama has played at during his presidency," and that there was also an online Obama Golf Counter, which is extant and features pictures of Obama golfing mixed with slogans like "Defund Obamacare" and "Foodstamp President."
Last year Obama struck a goofy pose on the links; though Fox News' Greta Van Susteren thought this was "staged and choreographed" by the White House for God knows what reason, the photo has since been repurposed by hundreds of rightbloggers who were outraged that Obama spent so much time (and, possibly, was allowed to be) at these fancy golf courses.
In May of this year Breitbart.com breathlessly reported that someone had put up anti-Obama posters in L.A. which "coincided with the PGA Tour and poked fun at the president's multiple golf outings." "The president is on pace to double the 104 days he spent on the links during his first term," reported the New York Post.
And so on, and on. Obama plus golf became rightblogger shorthand for Elitist for when they were tired of calling him a Socialist. They used it without explanation as a casual slur, confident their followers would understand -- for example, here's Jeff Goldstein of Protein Wisdom talking about some damn thing: "Obama has been holding back what he believed to be a trump card for a time when the heat for some of his lawlessness and fecklessness began to pierce his air conditioned super town car and threatened to interrupt his golf outings."
Sometimes the brethren take a break from attacking Obama's golf to attack him for other recreational activities, like skeet shooting or pool. And in general any time he goes on vacation they subject it to microscopic analysis. But when that vacation involves golf, their tiny eyes light up.
Why? Resentment, perhaps. Often they bitterly complain, as Jonah Goldberg did in 2009, about the Liberal Media's "double standard" in covering Bush's time on the greens and Obama's. Which makes this as good a point as any to note that Obama has actually taken far fewer vacation days than Bush did -- as of August 4, 125 days to Bush's 407 days, per Politifact.
But don't tell that to rightbloggers. For one thing, Bush wasn't golfing during his long absences from the office, at least not after a while -- he was "clearing brush," remember? For another, Obama was on vacation -- and golfing! -- just last week, when a lot of shit went down, and in Martha's Vineyard, which is fancy and liberal and the perfect excuse for reviving the trope, in hopes of making the President look out of touch and even cruel in the face of current events.
"The world is exploding, as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said last week. But President Obama is going golfing -- again," said Daniel Halper at the Weekly Standard.
"He's now played over 190 rounds of golf as president," dudgeoned Republican National Committee president Reince Priebus. "Now, we all deserve some time off. But you have to wonder: where are his priorities?"
"He's hooked on golf like drug addicts are hooked on drugs," claimed radio shouter Mark Levin. "He used to do pot, he used to do coke, now he does golf. Unbelievable."
The brethren got especially heated after the execution of reporter James Foley by our new Middle East supervillains, ISIS. Obama interrupted his vacation to make a statement denouncing the act; then, instead of spending the next few days in church or a crepe-lined room, returned to his holiday.
The Administration has launched airstrikes against ISIS and tried to rescue Foley, and even without Obama's physical presence the U.S. military he commands remains on the case. Yet rightbloggers affected to believe it was outrageous that Obama would golf while things were going on.
"UNREAL: Barack Obama Knew ISIS Planned to Behead American Journalist While he Played Golf," raved Eric Odom at Liberty News. He apparently extrapolated this view from an ABC report that said the White House was "aware of the threat" of Foley's execution before it happened. "Google should bring up BarackObama.com as a search result for 'fiddling while Rome burns,'" Odom added.
Actually, Odom's oddly specific prescription aside, rightbloggers have already made this comparison a popular Google result -- see for example Jeff Goldstein: "Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Obama? He putts." In fact, some guy on Hannity just applied it to Obama's recent vacation: "Nero fiddles while Rome burns... I think this president could care less about all the threats we face."
"With the remarks on James Foley and ISIS complete -- guess where President Obama went?" riddled James Geraghty at National Review. "President Obama sublimates his deep grief over beheaded journalist with somber round of golf," cried -- surprise! -- Jeff Goldstein. Goldstein also showed pictures of Obama laughing at the golf course, and suggested this might have been because "somebody said something about Jennifer Lopez's badonkadonk. Cause that shit is bumpin', amiright?" (We hardly need point this out, but Goldstein is white.)
"President Obama, you have a problem," said Fox's Greg Gutfield. "Not with drugs or women or booze, it's worse. You have a problem with golf and it's getting weird." Gutfield concluded, "After an American is beheaded, no president should be heading to the course." Cute closing lines are cool, though!
Curtis Houck of NewsBusters claimed "CBS 'This Morning' Covers for Obama on Vacation, Golfing After Statement on James Foley's Murder" because co-host Norah O'Donnell brought up Bush's famous "now watch this drive" golf moment. Houck protested: "...it still does not make it right for this president to be golfing and smiling minutes after describing to the nation his feelings about the brutal slaughtering of an innocent American journalist." Sadly, he did not prescribe an appropriate timeframe for smiling/laughing after such addresses, though we suspect if one existed it would be on a sliding scale.
The presumption behind these complaints seemed to be that by showing insufficient grimness, Obama was giving aid and comfort to the enemy.
B. Christopher Agee of Western Journalism, for example, said that "despite warnings from experts, including former CIA Deputy Director Mike Morell, that this development is a direct threat to America's safety and should be met with a strong military response, Obama was reportedly not troubled enough to cancel his latest round of golf."
"Not only did he insult the Foley family," said Fox News commentator Ralph Peters, "but he sent the message to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and all the other terrorist jihadi militants, now soldiers in a jahadi army, that he doesn't take it all seriously."
Lord knows what Agee and Peters would have written about Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was frequently shown smiling and laughing despite the Depression and World War II unfolding around him.
When Dowd's column dropped, it got the brethren's hearts racing, and not just because she was finally telling jokes they could appreciate (samples: "Every time Chuck says ISIL is 'beyond anything we've ever seen,' I sprout seven more gray hairs. But my cool golf caps cover them... If only I could just play through the rest of my presidency"). Dowd works for the New York Times, which makes her a liberal like Ross Douthat and David Brooks; plus she's female, which is a sure sign of leftism.
"MAUREEN DOWD GOES NUCLEAR ON OBAMA'S GOLF ADDICTION" howled Breitbart.com. "Lib Maureen Dowd hits 'hole in one' with blistering Obama piece," claimed rightwing-alternative-Twitter Twitchy. "Maureen Dowd Breaks Up With Obama?" and "New York Times Tees Off on Obama Golf Game," headlined Fox Nation.
"Out-of-touch Obama gets rough treatment from NY Times," reported Tom Tillison at BizPac Review. "It's not often that liberal New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd will find a kindred spirit in conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham," gushed Tillison, "...Again, in the New York Times!"
None of them seemed to notice Dowd wrote her first anti-Obama column in 2007. But that hardly matters -- other Main Steam Media outlets have picked up the golf complaint, too.
While "what I should be discussing this day are the President's comments delivered yesterday regarding the heinous execution of American photojournalist James Foley," said, correctly, Rick Ungar at Forbes, "...Instead, I find myself compelled to write about the President's decision to keep his scheduled golf date with a couple of friends immediately following his televised comments..."
Why was he so compelled? Because, said Ungar, it showed a "complete lack of class," and "had it been me," Ungar would have rushed to the side of Foley's parents, assuming naturally that what they would most want in their hour of grief was a visit from President Ungar.
It makes sense. Of all the rightblogger routines, this one does seem best suited to a regular-media pick-up -- because it's about appearances rather than reality. No one who thought about it for more than ten seconds could conclude that Obama can speed the defeat of ISIS by frowning and staying indoors. But then, if you thought about it for more than ten seconds, you wouldn't give a shit about the VMA Awards, either, and at this writing it's a very big story. As their attention drifts from the current to the potential President of the United States, expect more stop-the-press stuff like this.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.