Obama, Bush, Clinton, and the Media's Real Golf Bias

The president isn't underexposed, and the media's golf bias isn't partisan.

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By John Aloysius Farrell, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Was it only last year that George F. Will and other Republican critics were slamming President Obama for being over-exposed? That was then and this is now. The new Republican talking point seems to be that Obama is under-exposed, and plays too much golf.

I am not kidding. Who could make this stuff up?

It is true that Obama does not go in for those full-dress, East Room, prime time press conferences. And perhaps he should. It is a fine tradition, and he is certainly overdue. But, let's face it, prime time television isn't what it used to be, and the few dozen members of the White House press corps are no longer the gatekeepers of presidential news coverage.

Via cable TV and the Internet, blogs and tweets, Obama is pretty ubiquitous. And the president got a much tougher grilling when he sat down with Fox News--and in one-on-ones with the other networks--then he will ever get in the stilted choreography of an East Room press conference, with those 15-minute introductory statements, and preening correspondents.

Obama is plenty exposed. And what does that have to do with golf, anyway?

The convoluted argument being made is that poor George W. Bush was unfairly hounded from the golf course, but these days the evil liberal media (while rolling over on the question of prime time news conferences) is giving a pass to First Golfer Obama.

Ridiculous. Nobody got more grief for his golf game than the great old Democratic cheetah himself, Bill Clinton. If the man ever knew how to count, he forgot it on the first tee. And we golfers in the Clinton press corps made sure the world knew it. But Clinton, God bless him, stuck it out. He hacked and swore and took lots of mulligans and improved his lie and gave himself four-foot putts--but he didn't abandon the sport because of a little needling from the press.

If W. really did give up the game because of the likes of Michael Moore, it says more about W. than it does about the media. I don't believe that W. really liked golf anyway. The Bushes play polo golf--they run around the course like it's an obligation they need to get finished.

And tell me the difference, in terms of being an elitist, between mountain biking and wind-surfing. There is none. Yet W. rode all he wanted, with nary a word of criticism, while John Kerry got savaged for a single day of wind-surfing. Some liberal bias.

For the record, the rules of presidential golf are simple. If you learned the game as a rich country club kid--like the Bushes, or Jack Kennedy--you have a problem. Golf can reinforce the image of elitism. But if you are a John Daly type like Clinton, an old soldier like Eisenhower, or a black guy like Obama, you get to play as much as you want, for the same reason that people liked blue collar Arnie, or Super Mex Lee Trevino, better (in the day) than Scioto Country Club's favorite son, Jack Nicklaus.

That said, the whole matter of golf and class and elitism is fading these days, along with the WASP aristocracy. Everybody loves Phil Mickelson, or roots for Tiger Woods, and very few know, or care, about their backgrounds. If President Palin takes an evening off to play golf at Andrews Air Force Base when she is in the White House, nobody is going to call her an elitist. We'll think she's cute.

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