Does Tiger Woods have a publicity problem? Did Greg Norman have an accent? Mark McKinnon remembers how the national media treated George W. Bush for golfing during war, and marvels at the way the White House press corps has reversed itself since 2003, when Bush finally eschewed the game:
Bush was also constantly ridiculed and criticized for playing golf, most memorably by Michael Moore in Fahrenheit 9/11. In August 2003, Bush gave up the game, believing it sent the wrong message to grieving parents of soldiers killed or wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. Of course, he was ridiculed for that as well.
Obama was criticized by foreign press recently when, unable to travel to pay respects to the president of Poland who was killed in a plane crash, he went golfing.
But there was not a critical peep from the American press.
On Memorial Day last year, the press reverently reported that Obama placed a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknowns in the morning, and then observed a moment of silence that afternoon—on the golf course before teeing off. (I can only imagine how this would have been reported if Bush’s moment of “silent remembrance and solemn prayer” was on the green.)
And here’s how ABC reported an outing after Obama had just returned from a trip to Germany visiting the horror of the Holocaust camps: “Nobody would fault Obama for taking Sunday to catch up on sleep and unwind after the breakneck travel schedule. But instead of vegging out on the couch, Obama returned to the White House for only about 90 minutes, then hopped in his motorcade and went right back to Andrews to get in nine holes of golf at one of the three courses on the base.”
And how about this headline from The Washington Post: “Just the Sport for a Leader Most Driven.” Richard Leiby reports, “To some, Obama’s frequent outings reflect a cool self-confidence.” The article then quotes a sports psychologist who said Obama seemed able to play golf despite the grim reports by the media about the wars and the economy.
Bush played 24 rounds of golf in two and a half years before giving up the game. Obama has played 32 rounds of golf in fifteen months. Bush was a villain for amusing himself on the golf course; Obama’s a cool, self-confident hero for playing golf in the midst of the same wars and a collapsed economy.
That certainly shows a double standard, but McKinnon points out a more troubling double standard that goes more to performance on the job. The media routinely cast Bush as a fumbler on the media stage and routinely complained about a lack of press conferences, where the reporters could ask tough questions. McKinnon notes that Bush averaged about one press conference every two months — not exactly the most forthcoming, but certainly better than Obama’s performance. The current President hasn’t held a formal press conference since July 2009, when he created a mess by opining on the arrest of his friend Henry “Skip” Gates in Cambridge, accusing the police of “acting stupidly.” Ever since, the White House has avoided allowing Obama to get exposed for another goof.
With the exception of a few professionals in the White House press corps, the national media has given this President nothing but Mulligans, and not just on the golf course.