Let the President Play Golf

A long-running annoyance of mine is the need for partisan critics of the president to wail about the president taking a vacation/playing golf/whatever.

I would note that I have felt this way since Reagan (or, basically, since I have really been paying attention to these things).

The latest example (via Jim Hoft):  Obama Tells Politico the Oil Spill is Like 9-11… Then Goes Golfing for 4 Hours.

Yes, I thought Michael Moore’s usage of Bush playing golf in Fahrenheit 9/11 was silly, as I thought that giving Bush grief for clearing brush at his ranch was pointless.

First, presidents deserve some down time.  Do we really want them to have no rest and relaxation?

Second, conservatives in particular, who argue that we should recognize and accept the limitations of government should recognize that having a president work 24/7 is an inefficacious desire.

Third, such criticism are transparently partisan and ultimately content-free.  Not surprisingly, Republicans tend to criticize Democrats for their vacations and golf (or whatever) and vice versa.  It is almost to the level of self-parody boilerplate for anyone who been paying attention to politics for any amount of time.  In sum, it is cheap and easy to play the golf/vacation card.

Fourth, does anyone actually believe that any president engaging in any activity (golf, clearing brush, riding horses in Santa Barbara, walking around Martha’s Vinyard, etc.) is actually off the clock?

Please, enough already.

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. I agree. I wonder how much of the animus is motivated by his choosing golf? Bush would have been criticzed for getting out of bed in the morning, but if Obama had picked some more populist sport, like soccer, perhaps he wouldn’t take as much heat.

  2. An Interested Party says:

    “Bush would have been criticzed for getting out of bed in the morning…”

    As if the same exact thing isn’t happening to the current occupant of the Oval Office…

  3. democratsarefascists says:

    No, not enough.

    If they do it to us, we should do it to them.

  4. mpw280 says:

    Maybe if the dems hadn’t criticized every break during Bush’s presidency then it wouldn’t be such a big deal now. Maybe going golfing right after equating the spill to 9-11, makes him look like he doesn’t care, maybe one of the “professional” image people in his staff needs to explain that there should be some time between a major event and going golfing affects how people view him, he might also consider that his policies are making it harder for people to afford going golfing as they see him spend lots of tax payer money to fly the entourage of his around to play golf as wasting their hard earned money. Don’t bet on it though. mpw

  5. drew says:

    As OTB’s resident scratch golfer I would note that it is the only sport that gets my mind completely off of work. It requires focus.

    And I’d disagree with SLT in that anyone responsible for weighty decisions does (and should) get some “off the clock” time. Its unhealthy otherwise.

    My only issue on this topic is the very selective treatment on the part of the majority of the media. Generally hypocritical.

  6. Bush gave up golf after he started the wars, because he didn’t want military parents who’d lost sons or daughters to see him playing golf, and get the idea that he didn’t care. He gave it up for years because he decided it sent the wrong message in a time of crisis.

    I get that leaders need downtime–Winston Churchill got through WWII by taking naps to keep his mind sharp. But the Obamas really do seem to be living in a sort of Gilded-Age-style cocoon

  7. And I’d disagree with SLT in that anyone responsible for weighty decisions does (and should) get some “off the clock” time. Its unhealthy otherwise

    I utterly agree–perhaps I didn’t express myself adequately (it is my point #1). My point #4 is that no president is ever far from communication and is always on call, whether on the golf course or asleep.

  8. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    I have nothing against golf and have spent time on the links myself. However, this President seems obsessed with playing it. Wonder what it costs taxpayers for a round for him to play? Obama seems to take the perks of being President a lot more seriously than he does doing the job of being President. This is off topic but I found this at Red State and wanted to cut and paste it somewhere as it is so true. And I am desperate for someone, perhaps Dick Cheney, to ask the eco-Marxists a simple question; if we shut down oil production in the US how does that reduce our dependence on foreign oil? If we’re to reduce our dependence on foreign oil without drilling for more of our own, what’s their recommended alternative given the fact that there are over 100,000,000 gasoline burning vehicles on the road, tens of thousands of service stations, thousands of miles of pipelines, and hundreds of billions of dollars in infrastructure dedicated to gasoline as a transportation fuel. I’m sick to death of them griping about oil without being forced to offer an alternative and a strategy for implementation. Offer an alternative or SHUT UP.his is off topic, but I must include it somewhere as I cut and pasted it from a comment of Red State.

  9. drew says:

    SLT –


  10. A round every few weeks is not an obsession.

    As for An Interested Party’s concerns, aw, perhaps he should go back to beanbag. Without question we have our most thin skinned president ever.

    drew, I shot a 74 recently, but that’s a bit of an aberration. Hope to get out with you sometime.

  11. just me says:

    Well I agree with you that presidents should be allowed their leisure. And it isn’t like being on the golf course, on vacation, or experiencing some other form of relaxation means the president is out of touch, if there is a crisis. With modern technology the president’s office can pretty much follow him wherever he goes-even to the golf course.

    That said, I also don’t find a whole lot of empathy for any arguments from the left on this one. The “evil, bad things are happening and the president is playing golf or on vacation” accusations from the left through Bush’s presidency were ridiculous. The current criticisms from the right are pretty much the left being hoisted on their own petard.

  12. The current criticisms from the right are pretty much the left being hoisted on their own petard.

    A few thoughts:

    1) I am not coming at this from the left: I felt the same way about the Bush criticism as noted.

    2) If we are going to persist in the “they did it, so we can, too!” mentality, this type of nonsensical behavior will never end.

    3) As noted above, it was done to Reagan, Clinton and Bush II (and not references, to Bush I and his house in Maine, for that matter). They did the opposite to Carter during the Iranian Hostage Crisis, as he was seen as being under siege and held captive of his own doing in the WH. This is not some new phenomenon.

  13. An Interested Party says:

    re: charles austin Monday, June 14, 2010 at 14:23

    How touching, but I’m hardly “concerned”, my dear…just pointing out that ODS is just as prevalent as BDS…

  14. So one must be deranged to question the uncontrolled spending? The damage done to relationships with long term allies? The politicization of the DOJ? The obvious and painful lack of executive leadership in a crisis due to, oh, I don’t know, any actual executive experience?

    Anyway, I was referring to the One moreso that you. There are certainly some ODS sufferers out there, particularly the birthers. But you are delusional to imagine that the incidence of ODS is anywhere near that of BDS. Remember, a good percentage of Democrats still think Bush knew about 9/11 before it happened.

  15. An Interested Party says:

    Spare me the strawmen….no one is saying that the points you made can’t be questioned, although the same charges about damaging relationships with long term allies and politicizing the DOJ could also be leveled at the Bush Administration…actually, one is deranged to question the president’s country of birth, to accuse him of being a socialist, or to compare him to Hitler, Stalin, or Mao…all claims that have been made, including around here by some of the more delusional commenters…you claim that you are an independent, but you certainly don’t seem to mind trashing liberals and Democrats, speaking of which, care to provide some links to prove that a supposed good percentage of them think that Bush knew about 9/11 before it happened? Do keep proving how “independent” you are by claiming that ODS is just a drop in the bucket compared to BDS…

  16. I claim independence because I am neither a Republican nor a Democrat. I am a libertarian minded conservative which naturally places me right of center, increasingly so as the Democrats have become ever more progressive in their politics. Perhaps you didn’t notice but I have repeatedly said that Bush got almost everything wrong, but at least he was willing to fight back in ways that it was clear that neither Gore nor Kerry would have. The jury’s still out on Obama on that front.

    ODS is a drop in the bucket compared to BDS, which is still quite virulent. The polls are out there is you really want to know and have been linked here before. I’m too busy to pursue it right now. Sorry.