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Obama Plays 100th Round of Golf as President, Should Play More

Politico, CBS News, and something called White House Dossier note that President Obama played his 100th round of golf since becoming president Sunday.

As I’ve noted many times over the years when variations of this controversy arise, Americans should be thankful when our presidents take time off. We’ve long known that decision-makers need a lot of rest to be at their peak. Military studies have repeatedly shown that, while people can push on to superhuman levels without sleep in doing physically demanding tasks like marching with heavy equipment, they’ll become mentally sloppy long before they reach their physical limits.

The same is true for those of us who just sit in front of a computer all day. The New York Times notes that, “A growing body of evidence shows that taking regular breaks from mental tasks improves productivity and creativity — and that skipping breaks can lead to stress and exhaustion.”

Mental concentration is similar to a muscle, says John P. Trougakos, an assistant management professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough and the Rotman School of Management. It becomes fatigued after sustained use and needs a rest period before it can recover, he explains — much as a weight lifter needs rest before doing a second round of repetitions at the gym.

[...]

Employees generally need to detach from their work and their work space to recharge their internal resources, he says. Options include walking, reading a book in another room or taking the all-important lunch break, which provides both nutritional and cognitive recharging.

Nobody has to make more important decisions on a routine basis than the person sitting in the Oval Office. Given what’s at stake, we should not only not begrudge them taking time off to preserve their sanity, we should encourage if not demand it.

Of course, presidents are never really off duty. While an increasing number of us are tethered to the office via email and smart phones even on holidays, weekends, and vacations, that’s true at an extreme level for the president. He doesn’t even turn off his electronic devices during take-off and landing.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Tsar Nicholas says:

    What’s sorta funny about this is the only places in which this even is a “controversy” are the Internet and talk radio and then if a Republican is in charge in the mass media and at cocktail parties and such. Zombieland doesn’t care whether the president is playing golf or playing with himself. They’re not invested in the 24/7 news cycle. Probably that’s the better and healthier approach to take.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 3

  2. Eric Florack says:

    But let’s recall, here, the comments of David Axlerod…

    Video from 1994 has surfaced of David Axelrod, President Obama’s chief campaign strategist, calling former President George H.W. Bush “out of touch” for “tastelessly” playing golf while trying to convince voters that the economy is improving.


    Axelrod explained in the 1994 interview that if “you cite these statistics that say the economy is improving, you almost do political damage to yourself.”

    “If you stand up and claim great progress, you are only frustrating this alienated middle class more,” he said.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 7

  3. mattb says:

    @Eric Florack: Congratulations Eric, you discovered a political operative being a hypocrite — or at least, nearly two decades ago, taking a position that he wouldn’t take today.

    But do you agree with James that this focus on Golf (and other downtime), regardless of who is in office, a stupid meme? Or do you side with Axelrod?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  4. James Joyner says:

    @Eric Florack: @mattb: Apparently, he went by “David Axelron” in those days, too.

    Of course, he could be partly right both times. That is, the optics are indeed bad. And Obama seems to have learned from the Bushes on this; his golf trips seem to be private and he avoids addressing the press from the course.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  5. rodney dill says:

    Never up, never in.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. Racehorse says:

    I remember seeing a lot of pictures of President Eisenhower playing golf. What we need is for Congress to play golf a lot more.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  7. Moosebreath says:

    “I remember seeing a lot of pictures of President Eisenhower playing golf.”

    Ike played lots of bridge in the White House as well. Once he failed to make a slam he bid, and noted that it was the first time in his administration that anyone set a President.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  8. Eric Florack says:

    @mattb: The point I’m making of course is the double standard being applied here. Axelrod wasn’t the only political operative. then, or now. let’s recall please do you know if the press was making back in the days of Bush, and the relative silence they exhibit now in the matter.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 4

  9. mattb says:

    @Eric Florack:

    let’s recall please do you know if the press was making back in the days of Bush, and the relative silence they exhibit now in the matter.

    The silence that they exhbit now? Really… I fully expect that this is going to circulate quite a bit. As have the issues of the cost of presidential trips and other of these key “topics.”

    Likewise, I’d be interested in any proof — other than your dodgy memory — that GHWB’s Golfing or his sons, was ever a major issue in the press outside of the editorial pages.

    But you still have yet to answer my question Eric — do YOU think that this is a real issue? Or is it just another way for your to point out how victimized you and your side are?

    Let me go on record as I agree with James, outside of the optics issue, it’s a ridiculous topic for everyone but partisans (like you).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  10. mattb says:

    @James Joyner:

    Apparently, he went by “David Axelron” in those days, too.

    Good catch, but that ‘stache cannot be hidden behind an errant “n”.

    Good point on the optics side.

    Plus I suspect that after Michael Moore’s infamous use of GW’s comments from the fareway (an the shot that immediately followed them) it will be a long time before we ever see a president making comments while on the green.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  11. al-Ameda says:

    Great fake controversy, by the way.

    I’d rather he play golf (which I have absolutely have no interest in) than he be involved in Equestrian Dressage (the sport of the people, and which I also have no interest in.)

    .

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  12. al-Ameda says:

    @Eric Florack:

    To be fair, G.W. Bush played less golf, and he found time to create 2 deficit-funded wars, get congress to pass one deficit-funded supplemental Medicare Prescription Drug Program, and preside over the biggest collapse of the financial and housing markets since the Great Depression.

    More golf and brush clearing in Crawford would probably have benefited the American people more.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 3

  13. Muffler says:

    This isn’t really any news is it? I mean if you count the FTC that he has been president for over 150 weekends then him playing a round less than once a week isn’t really much…we occupy too much of the time thinking of this junk.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  14. JKB says:

    If you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean.

    The trick is you can’t tell by looking whether the golfer is malingering or if he’s engaging in conscious distraction while his subconscious chews on a problem. I found golf to be particularly good at this conscious mind distraction as it requires focus and exposes the lack there of but little deep thought. Of course, clearing brush, chopping wood and other such pursuits provide the same benefits.

    But then there is the optics. A bit “to much” golf, or “to many” trips to Crawford and your opponents will trot out the malingering meme. Why because it plays well with those whose work involves frenzy activity or time on the line rather than contemplative thought.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  15. Michelle says:

    The problem with George W. Bush is that he claimed to have stopped playing golf while the country was at war when, in fact, he had not.

    Bush gave up golf; took up biking. On May 13, 2008, Politico reported that Bush said he gave up golf in August 2003, quoting him saying: “I don’t want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the commander in chief playing golf. … I feel I owe it to the families to be in solidarity as best as I can with them. And I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal.” However, as The Washington Post reported, “Although Bush says he has given up golf, he is a mountain-biking enthusiast who has been photographed taking part in rides. He took up biking after an injury sidelined him from running.” Bush was also seen playing golf in October 2003, as a video MSNBC aired shows.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  16. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    If only we could get Obama’s cronies to also spend more time on the links…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

  17. steve says:

    Eisenhower played about 800 rounds of golf during his presidency. It is the job of the opposition to try to find ways to use things like golfing and vacations against whomever is in office. It is the job of interested voters to ignore those efforts.

    Steve

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  18. @JKB:

    I found golf to be particularly good at this conscious mind distraction as it requires focus and exposes the lack there of but little deep thought. Of course, clearing brush, chopping wood and other such pursuits provide the same benefits.

    Yup.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  19. anjin-san says:

    “tastelessly” playing golf while trying to convince voters that the economy is improving.

    Yea, well the thing here is that the economy has been improving, though I know conservatives pine for the days when we teetered on the brink of the abyss under Bush.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  20. jan says:

    I don’t really care about such things as ’rounds of golf,’ unless there is some kind of hypocrisy attached to it. Eric’s post about Axelrod’s earlier golf dig, not only qualifies on that account, but brings into focus a pattern of this administration, in accusing their predecessor for an act or policy, which is then duplicated on the current democratic watch, without as much as a cricket sounding to denote the similarity.

    Whether it is berating Bush’s deficits, heckling raising the debt ceiling as being a show of poor leadership, keeping Guantanomo open, the lack of government transparency, closing the racial and political divide, having no viable immigration policy (until 5 mos out from his reelection), torture (as Obama ponders his ‘kill’ list), or making fun of relaxation time, it all seemed fair game when Obama was running in ’08. However, as Obama’s presidential rituals have all but fallen off his ’08 script of “What I’ll do when I’m POTUS,” his surrogates just amble along trying to think of new fetching issues to capture just enough constituencies needed to make the bottom line of ‘winning.’

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  21. jan says:

    @anjin-san:

    “Yea, well the thing here is that the economy has been improving, though I know conservatives pine for the days when we teetered on the brink of the abyss under Bush. “

    Just keep that deluded meme, more a statistical technicality than Main Street reality, going around the gerbil track, if it makes you feel good, anjin.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 5

  22. @jan:

    Just keep that deluded meme, more a statistical technicality than Main Street reality

    What does that mean? It sounds like you are rejecting empirics for platitudes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  23. anjin-san says:

    What does that mean?

    It means I’m right, but Jan’s ideology says I am wrong, therefore I am deluded.

    Of course an economy on the brink of collapse is better that an economy in a tepid recovery. Of course losing 500K jobs a month is better than adding 100K, because, because…. Obama sucks!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  24. mattb says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    What does that mean? It sounds like you are rejecting empirics for platitudes.

    This ties into a long running discussion about what Jan considers “facts”… see http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/obama-losing-support-among-new-york-jews-or-more-statistical-noise//#comments (towards the bottom) for more info…

    From Jan’s perspective, numbers can be manipulated (hence we shouldn’t care about Record Corporate Profits, Wall Street Recoveries, and Gains in Unemployment). Subjective experience (i.e. it still feels bad to me, I know unemployed people, our business is down) are “facts” of equal weight in this discussion.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  25. mattb says:

    @jan:

    However, as Obama’s presidential rituals have all but fallen off his ’08 script of “What I’ll do when I’m POTUS,” his surrogates just amble along trying to think of new fetching issues to capture just enough constituencies needed to make the bottom line of ‘winning.’

    It is fair to hold Obama (and any other politician) to their promises. And this has been a unique period as Obama is the first president to serve his term under the current form of politi-fact journalism. So lets turn to (one) tale of the tape:

    The Obameter Scorecard
    Promise Kept : 184 (36%)
    Compromise : 61 (12%)
    Promise Broken : 71 (14%)
    Stalled : 61 (12%)
    In the Works : 129 (25%)
    Not yet rated : 2 (0%)
    http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/promises/obameter/

    Tallying those together we end up with:
    Promises Kept/Compromised: 48%
    Promised Broken/Stalled: 26%
    In the works/NYR: 26%

    We will have to see how this stacks up against the next president. But keeping approximately 50% of campaign promises isn’t a terrible record (So far the the same scale measures the GOP at 21% of campaign promises kept from the 2010 race, though the have a much higher ITW/NYR rate).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  26. wr says:

    @jan: Gosh, it must be fun to post when you believe that your opinions are more valuable than facts.

    Still wondering if this is how your run your “business” — when numbers come in that contradict your feelings about how things are going, do you discard those facts so that you can keep running on your opinions? Or do you only apply this to unimportant things, like the future of this nation?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  27. wr says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: ” It sounds like you are rejecting empirics for platitudes”

    Perhaps you missed the thread, but Jan recently explained that when facts contradict her feelings and opinions, she goes with the latter, because what she chooses to believe is far more accurate than anything that can be described as a fact.

    It really was the most astonishing display of Teaparty logic I’ve ever seen. Usually they pretend not to do this…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  28. @mattb: Gotcha–I just read the thread and see what you mean. Excellent post on facts and such (too bad she hasn’t responded to it).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  29. slimslowslider says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    But certainly not shocking in the least.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  30. mattb says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Thanks, in general I think it’s good for each of us to get a little reminder from time to time about the difference between objective and subjective facts.

    Beyond that, I’ve been getting a little peeved at the constant refrain by some that OTB has been turned over to/taken over by the liberal commentors and their nasty “facts.” That’s not to say that the Objective facts always favor a given side. But as of late the conservative posters here have a tendency to give subjective opinion as fact and then run, only to later reemerge and wonder why their opinions are not respected.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  31. anjin-san says:

    Main Street reality

    The main street reality of 2008 was that people had watched much of the value of their 401Ks vanish like smoke (since regained) home prices were pretty much in free fall, as was the stock market. And businesses could not get the credit they needed to do business. My office was next to our leading director at the time, he could not get credit for businesses that were very solid. CIT, the nation’s largest middle market lender, was on the verge of collapse.

    All of these conditions have improved vastly under Obama. Sorry Jan, but all your homilies about $2 bills don’t change these facts.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  32. sam says:

    @mattb:

    This ties into a long running discussion about what Jan considers “facts”

    I wrote her off when she stated, on the basis of her “reading” somebody, that the members of Seal Team Six refused to meet with the president after the Bin Laden raid. She’s delusional.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0