The Washington Times - March 16, 2011, 10:33PM

President Obama’s appearance on ESPN Wednesday to go over his picks in the upcoming NCAA basketball tournament is generating sharp criticism among conservatives, including a rebuke from potential GOP presidential contender Newt Gingrich.

“In the middle of Libyan-Bahraini-Yemeni unrest, with Iran pushing terrorism and Eqypt unstable, as Japan confronts an earthquake-tsunami-nuclear crisis, when the full unemployment rate in the United States is 10.5 percent (including those who have quit looking), and gasoline is climbing toward $4 plus a gallon, there is something sad about a president hiding from his job and focusing on picking the Final Four in college basketball as if he were spectator-in-chief instead of commander-in-chief,” Mr. Gingrich told The Washington Times late Wednesday.

“Obama picking basketball teams may come to rival Jimmy Carter scheduling the tennis courts in the White House as a symbol of failing at big stuff and trivializing the presidency,” the former speaker of the U.S. House said.