Obama’s Golf Clubs

Michelle needs to stop buying shoes--but Barack's keeping his golf clubs.

On his Official Business Not a Campaign I Swear bus tour, President Obama used a folksy analogy:

In Cannon Falls, Minn., the president compared negotiating with House Republicans to negotiating with his wife.

“In my house,” Obama noted, “if I said, ‘You know, Michelle, honey, we got to cut back, so we’re going to have you stop shopping completely. You can’t buy shoes; you can’t buy dresses; but I’m keeping my golf clubs.’ You know, that wouldn’t go over so well.”

In Decorah, he said: “Everybody cannot get 100 percent of what they want. Now, for those of you who are married, there is an analogy here. I basically let Michelle have 90 percent of what she wants. But, at a certain point, I have to draw the line and say, ‘Give me my little 10 percent.’ “

Maureen Dowd concludes the wrong Obama is in charge: “Maybe Michelle should be the one negotiating with the Republicans.”

Digby thinks it’s sexist and insulting: “I think somebody’s been watching a little too much Mad Men lately. (Or I Love Lucy.) Who talks this way in America today other than rich Beverly Hills throwbacks with a trophy wife and a bad divorce?”

Ann Althouse thinks it shows Obama doesn’t understand governments or families: “The federal budget is not the same as a household budget scaled up. A husband and wife can’t just ‘raise the debt ceiling.’ And the 10% Obama is referring to is not the avoidance of an expenditure (like the golf clubs). It’s taxes. There is nothing like that in the family budget. The husband and wife do not have the option of commanding other people to give them money.”

To me, it shows a lack of understanding of basic economics. Buying new shoes and dresses is new spending on rapidly depreciating assets. Keeping one’s golf clubs has no impact whatsoever on the budget, since they’re the type of thing one typically pays for outright. One could sell them, I suppose, but the return is typically pennies on the dollar and, unless one expects to be in a budget pinch permanently, that just means that the budget will take a major hit when they have to be replaced down the road at full price.

Then again, it could just be a silly line from a stump speech that’s being over-analyzed.

FILED UNDER: General
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Vast Variety says:

    Then again, it could just be a silly line from a stump speech that’s being over-analyzed.

    Johnny we have a winner… tell him what he has won…

  2. Ben Wolf says:

    The President definitely has an incorrect and simplistic understanding of economics, that’s why he sounds so much like his Republican opposition.

  3. It was an analogy. Seriously, what the heck.

  4. Mostly I agree with “Then again, it could just be a silly line from a stump speech that’s being over-analyzed.”

    Having said that: I wish everyone would stop analogizing a household budget to that of the federal government. It is not only problematic on so many levels, but I think that rather than helping people better understand the federal budget it has the opposite effect.

  5. James Joyner says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Agree, although it’s been going on as long as I can remember. Reagan did it all the time.

  6. @James Joyner: Indeed. It has long been a staple of political rhetoric and will continue to be such, no doubt (unfortunately).

  7. Tano says:

    It doesn’t even sound like he was making an analogy between household budgets and the federal budget. He was making a point about the need to compromise – that you cannot expect to get 100% of what you want when you negotiate with someone.

  8. michael reynolds says:

    My first reactions was: Maureen Dowd? She’s still around?

  9. EddieInCA says:

    Exhibit A as to what is wrong with our politics.

    Obama was making a point about compromise; about the need to give up a little to get alot.

    That’s the point of the analogy, not about budgets or households or comparing the two.

    It’s a point about compromise, which has become a four letter word to the current GOP.

    Yet, it’s being spun as Obama being clueless about household AND government budgets.

    Sheesh.

  10. Andre Kenji says:

    If the pojnt is compromise, then the analogy is still a dumb analogy. Both parties in fact defend the tax system as it is, both parties defends entitlements.

  11. Jay Tea says:

    Oh, for heaven’s sake, you don’t pick apart Obama’s statements. He’s only the president. That treatment only goes for Republican candidates for president.

    It’s like how the other day Chris Matthews wondered if the mainstream media to fully investigate and vet Rick Perry. That he’s already been more closely scrutinized than Candidate Obama ever was is… well, heresy and we don’t talk about that.

    J.

  12. Scott O. says:

    When the aliens from outer space invade, whacking them with a golf club will be much more effective then throwing shoes.

  13. JKB says:

    So it’s all about compromise, huh?

    The top congressional leaders from both parties gathered at the White House for a working discussion over the shape and size of President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus plan. The meeting was designed to promote bipartisanship.

    But Obama showed that in an ideological debate, he’s not averse to using a jab.

    Challenged by one Republican senator over the contents of the package, the new president, according to participants, replied: “I won.”

    Compromise is good, but you don’t compromise on what is vital and there is a reason you should be nice to people when you are in the strong position because someday you won’t be.

  14. EddieInCA says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    If the pojnt is compromise, then the analogy is still a dumb analogy. Both parties in fact defend the tax system as it is, both parties defends entitlements.

    Really?

    One party wants to raise taxes to pay for entitlements.

    One party wants to cut taxes and cut entitlements.

    Yeah. Exactly the same.

  15. mike says:

    which party came up with that prescription drug plan again – you know that really big increase in the entitlement program we are saddled with now – I know I regret voting for the guy – it is why I am no longer part of that party

  16. WR says:

    @Jay Tea: The right wing self pity train has left the station!

  17. WR says:

    @JKB: And as the right wing self pity train hurtles down the tracks, we all stoke the engine with an anecdote from 2009, which is supposed to prove that Obama is a big meanie who hurts the little Republicans’ feelings.

  18. jan says:

    It’s Obama’s way to get down and in touch with “the people.” — in this case, because it’s in red America he may be thinking “I’m talking to the little people. Let’s make this as economically simple as possible” It’s similar to his cultural generality, when he said in 2008, “Small towns cling to guns or religion.” In the end many of his professorial statements end up sounding supercilious and out of step with the moment he is in.

  19. @jan:

    It’s Obama’s way to get down and in touch with “the people.” — in this case, because it’s in red America he may be thinking “I’m talking to the little people.

    Well, no. It is the way politicians tend to speak, regardless of where they are or to whom they speaking.

    Trust me: just listen to them.

  20. OzarkHibilly says:

    @Jay Tea: Right Jay. Keep telling yourself that. You might even convince yourself. But not anyone else.

    Birtherism.
    Reverend Wright.
    Bill Ayers.

  21. Andre Kenji says:

    “Really?

    One party wants to raise taxes to pay for entitlements.

    One party wants to cut taxes and cut entitlements.

    Yeah. Exactly the same. ”

    1-) One party created the biggest expansion of Medicare in 2003. The same party used demagoguery.about Medicare in 2010.

    2-) Both parties voted for the payroll tax cut in 2010.

    3-) Neither party is willing to say that taxes must be raised to everyone(Not only the “rich”) and that entitlements must be cut, on the same time.

  22. anjin-san says:

    That treatment only goes for Republican candidates for president.

    You mean Republicans are all… gasp… victims?

    Next thing you know Obama will bring in an attack dog like Katie Couric.

  23. Dave Schuler says:

    It’s a silly line from a stump speech but, once again, the president is ill-served by his advisors. He needs better speechwriters and people to tell him what works for him and what doesn’t that he can trust. Folksy analogies probably aren’t his best approach.

  24. jan says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    True, politicians all have their stump speeches, talking points, and cliches designed to appeal to certain constituencies. However, politicians also have their own verbal “fingerprint” in how they address people — tonal quality, warmth, language used etc. Obama has long been seen as ‘lofty, somewhat detached, perfunctory versus spontaneous in his over-use of a teleprompter, ‘cool.’ This served him well in ’08 because he seemed above the fray, so verbally impeccable that people often saw Obama as a political messiah. Now, the pedestal has shortened, and verbally impeccable is turning into verbally implausible.

  25. JKB says:

    @WR: Actually, it proves that the man has no morals or compunction, will say whatever will advance his immediate desires, has no consideration or respect for others unless it advances his interests, and in a time when the nation needs a firm foundation, he is shifting sand eroded by any strong breeze and washed away by rising tide.

    But if you want to believe it is Republican self-pity, you go right ahead. Just don’t be surprised if you get run over by the Tea Trolley rolling through the halls of Congress.

  26. anjin-san says:

    Actually, it proves that the man has no morals

    Really? How doe it do that? Please be specific…

  27. WR says:

    @JKB: Wow. I hope you’re just saying something deliberately ludicrous because you have no real case against Obama, Because if you believe this is a man with no morals or compunction, than the world you’re living in is so far removed from reality that it’s almost impossible to imagine you’re able to function out of the house.

  28. mike says:

    @anjin-san: Anjin, don’t make him be specific. This would require more than a sound bite. Obama should sacrifice greatly like Bush did and give up golf for a while – that was a great sacrifice. That showed his great moral character; that he was one of us.

  29. rodney dill says:

    I think its an amazing and truthful analogy.

    Americans need to give up 90%, and they get to keep their little 10%.

    That’s an image voters can really get their minds around. I’m surprised (but pleased) he chose to be so honest.

  30. @rodney dill: Are you claiming that the policy preference being expressed is a 90% tax rate/confiscation?

  31. rodney dill says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    No, I think everyone understands the 90-10 percent in his analogy is just an exaggeration. I think the message from the analogy that can be taken away is “Give up a lot, to get a little.” Of course, his apologists will quickly say that’s not what he meant, but his detractors will be able to run with it, at any point in the future that it may seem to pertain to.

  32. @rodney dill: Except, if we speaking honestly, you can’t claim what you are claiming.

    Who is asking the American people to “Give up a lot, to get a little”?

  33. rodney dill says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I am speaking honestly. I’m giving you an interpretation of the analogy included in the original post.

    “Everybody cannot get 100 percent of what they want. Now, for those of you who are married, there is an analogy here. I basically let Michelle have 90 percent of what she wants. But, at a certain point, I have to draw the line and say, ‘Give me my little 10 percent.’ “

    It’s easy to conclude that he’s identifying with the American people and wants (him/us) to get just his little bit. Are you purporting that he only wants the government to get it’s little bit? (it’s 10%?). I don’t really think of him as a tax cutter, but I think he would have to be for that interpretation to be very believable (based of his own analogy).

  34. @rodney dill: Actually, if we are just analyzing the analogy, I am pretty sure he is talking about Republicans and Democrats in the Congress having to compromise.

  35. rodney dill says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Of course, we’re stuck with the ‘terms’ of his analogy, being the 90-10%. All analogies, as with models, (as per George P.E.) are wrong, but some are useful. If Obama had used something like 30-40% as his little bit, then it might be easier to see that being the governments ‘little bit’ in the analogy.

  36. rodney dill says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I probably got onto a different train of thought then.

  37. EddieInCA says:

    @rodney dill:

    It’s easy to conclude that he’s identifying with the American people and wants (him/us) to get just his little bit. Are you purporting that he only wants the government to get it’s little bit? (it’s 10%?). I don’t really think of him as a tax cutter, but I think he would have to be for that interpretation to be very believable (based of his own analogy).

    Based on just events last week, it’s pretty easy to conclude what he actually meant.

    In the GOP Presidential Candidate debate, every single GOP presidential candidate said they would walk away from a 10-1 deal, cuts to revenue. So he is the 10% (the Dems) and Michelle is the 90% (the GOP).

    Who in their right mind would walk way from a 10-1 deal?

    “Hey John, I’ll give you these ten negotiating points if you give me one.”

    “Screw you, you Socialist, America-hating, foreign-born, elitist. I want all eleven.”

  38. Ben Wolf says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I wish everyone would stop analogizing a household budget to that of the federal government.

    Sounds lke a topic in need of a detailed post. I thnk a great many would be surprised at just how little federal spending and debt have in common with private budgeting and debt.

  39. Fiona says:

    @jan:

    Obama has long been seen as ‘lofty, somewhat detached, perfunctory versus spontaneous in his over-use of a teleprompter, ‘cool.’

    By whom? I think a lot of us were pleased to have a president who could speak in complete sentences and not talk down to us. But, given your defense of La Diva Palin, I suppose you prefer her folksy stupidity and word salad sentences that make little sense. It’s that inability to speak grammatical English that makes her one of the regular people, a real American.

    This served him well in ’08 because he seemed above the fray, so verbally impeccable that people often saw Obama as a political messiah.

    I don’t think many of the people who voted for him saw him as a political messiah. This was yet another right wing trope aimed at knocking him down a notch or two. If the economy improves by the time the 2012 election rolls around, he’ll be re-elected because the GOP field is fractured and weak. If it doesn’t improve or gets worse (totally possible), then it’s anybody’s game.

  40. An Interested Party says:

    I’m curious how anyone would be so confused as to not realize that of course the President was trying to use an analogy to talk about the Congress…I guess those who really don’t like him would get into a different train of thought and fail to see that…

  41. Jimm says:

    @Jay Tea: You’re right, but apparently this isn’t the right place to say things like that.