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‘Obama Balances World Crises With Golf And Time Off’

From Reuters:

No optical illusion: Obama balances world crises with golf, time off

By Jeff Mason | August 10, 2014

OAK BLUFFS Mass. (Reuters) – President Barack Obama gave Americans an update on U.S. military strikes in Iraq on Saturday from a podium on the White House lawn with Marine One, the presidential helicopter, parked in the background. Four hours later, he offered an altogether different tableau: a golf game with friends at a lush course on Martha’s Vineyard, the upscale Massachusetts island where the president and his family began a two-week vacation.

The contrasting scenes, which quickly sparked some hostile commentary from critics, illustrate the dilemma of taking time off when you are the most powerful leader in the world and, by definition, handling major issues all the time. Part of the problem is dealing with appearances, or ‘optics’ as Washington pundits like to call it.

That’s funny, there was never any dilemma about this before Obama. When Bush took time off he was blasted by the news media and, of course, Cindy Sheehan. There was no dilemma about it. And there were no articles from Reuters explaining why it wasn’t dereliction of duty.

Administration officials made clear he would continue to do his job even while getting some time off, and a phalanx of aides, including national security adviser Susan Rice, came along to ensure that a virtual Oval Office was never far away…

As long as Susan Rice is on the job, then there is nothing to worry about. Still, we don’t recall Bush getting a pass even though he always took aides down to his ranch. Why is that?

The president’s Republican critics have already hammered him for going ahead with a vacation just days after authorizing airstrikes in Iraq – the first direct U.S. military action there since the last U.S. troops withdrew in 2011.

But White House staff allowed press photographers to take pictures of the president with club in hand at the beginning of his Saturday game. That is rare. Journalists seldom get to view the president playing golf, which he does almost every weekend in Washington when the weather is good.

The fact that reporters were given access to him on the same day as his somber comments on Iraq showed a White House wanting to appear immune to critics of Obama’s taking time off…

What a relief. We were worried that something might upset his well-deserved vacation. Thankfully, Mr. Obama has no qualms about doing what he is doing. And not doing.

Such imagery has backfired before, however. While on vacation in Maine in August 2002, Republican President George W. Bush reacted to a suicide bombing in Israel from the first tee box on his golf course. "I call upon all nations to do everything they can to stop these terrorist killers. Thank you. Now, watch this drive," Bush said before swinging his club.

The Republican president later gave up playing golf when his popularity plummeted after the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. Obama, whose own popularity ratings in polls are among the lowest of his presidency, is not showing signs of giving anything up…

Why would he have to? There is no one to call him on it. Certainly no one in the news media is going to complain about their idol.

This article was posted by Steve Gilbert on Monday, August 11th, 2014. Comments are currently closed.

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