The Washington Times - March 16, 2011, 05:33PM

President Barack Obama is getting criticism for not being fully engaged with national and international issues and, instead, focusing on more recreational activities like golf, basketball brackets, and a trip to Rio de Janeiro. 

New York real estate mogul Donald Trump told Fox News Channel’s Neil Cavuto, “For him to be playing golf the day of and the day after… I think is very inappropriate… The image of him on a golf course while Japan is in the kind of trouble, this is catastrophic trouble, I think is totally inappropriate, and I say that as a person who owns some of the greatest golf courses in the world!”


Congressman Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat, believes criticism of Mr. Obama’s sideline activities is petty and thinks it’s “silly” for Republicans to go after the President on the issue, but he also points out that it’s just as silly for Democrats to attack a Republican president over recreation time. However, Mr. Frank wishes Mr. Obama would be more active and “take a tougher position” on the budget.

“That’s just silly partisan stuff people always say unfairly about any president. He’s been talking about ‘No Child Left Behind’ recently. He’s been talking about education,” he said. However, the Massachusetts Congressman added. “I would like to see him take a more energetic position on the budget.”

Mr. Frank continued, “I think he’s making a strategic mistake hanging back some on the budget, but this notion that he’s not working hard enough is silly. It’s the kind of thing Democrats say about Republican presidents or Republicans say about Democrats, and it’s really stupid.”

Rep. Frank likely remembers the brouhaha over President Bush’s golf games which Mr. Bush says he stopped engaging in by 2003.

Remember this video clip from Michael Moore’s film Fahrenheit 9/11? Mr. Moore and liberal activists went after President George W. Bush for playing golf during his presidency at the time the Iraq War was happening. Press played up Mr. Bush’s golf outings and repeatedly pointed out the president would not take questions while he was on the course. However, by 2003, President Bush says he gave up playing golf out of respect to families who lost a son or daughter in the Iraq War. According to a 2008 article from London’s Evening Standard:

GEORGE BUSH said he stopped playing golf in 2003 out of respect for the families of Americans killed in Iraq. “I feel I owe it to the families, to be in solidarity as best as I can with them,” the President said in an interview with Yahoo and “I don’t want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the Commander- in-Chief playing golf.” 

Democrats also defend President Obama’s level of engagement despite reports on others who say Mr. Obama is dithering on international affairs in Libya and the federal budget.  

“People who think he should go to war with Libya, I think they’re making a great mistake. A No-fly zone would have been a great mistake.  We’re already in Iraq and Afghnaistan, and by the way, France is only 50 miles away fro Libya…Italy, Germany,” said Rep. Frank. “People who think it’s always got to be America are making a terrible mistake. That’s how we got into Libya. I think he’s done exactly the right thing with Libya.” 

However, what is considered engagement from the President appears to include work done for the president by White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley and Vice President Joe Biden.

“I think the president’s paying attention. I think you’ll see his participation increase now that we’ve reached this particular juncture,” said Maryland Democrat Congressman Chris Van Hollen, ranking member on the House Budget Committee. “He had the vice president working on this issue and engaged. Both of them step up to participation and we reached an important juncture. I think that they engaged appropriately, so far and now I think you’ll see it pick up.”

“Well he’s been very engaged, said Congressman John Larson, Connecticut Democrat. We heard from his chief of staff Bill Daley yesterday. Our caucus got a full briefing. We’re very pleased with the president’s efforts.”

Mr. Larson blamed Republicans for the lack of movement on the federal budget, saying: “The Republicans have to come forward with their budget. The executive branch proposes and the legislative branch disposes so he’s made his proposal. He’s put forth his budget. Now they have to come up with theirs.”

Senator John Cornyn, Texas Republican told Fox News on Wednesday that President Obama seems “completely disengaged from the budget debate. 

In a statement released by Mr. Cornyn, he remarked:

“President Obama’s timid budget proposal represents a missed opportunity to lead. It increases the national debt by nearly $11 trillion, raises taxes, and ignores the recommendations of the President’s own bipartisan debt commission. Republicans are ready to show we are serious about making these tough choices and getting the boot off the neck of American entrepreneurs and small businesses.”

In the meantime, President Obama plans a trip to South America, where he will visit the city of Rio de Janeiro. When asked by a White House reporter about the President’s planned excursion and how he could work on national security issues as well as rebuilding the economy, White House spokesman Jay Carney would only say: “The president is taking this trip because he is committed to growing the economy, rebalancing our national security posture.” Mr. Carney added, “He remains confident he can fully execute his job when he is on the road.”