- The Washington Times - Monday, February 18, 2013

Undeterred by complaints from the White House press corps about a lack of access, President Obama spent Presidents Day playing his third straight day of golf to wrap up a secluded guys’ weekend at an exclusive golf course in Florida.

The president’s long weekend trip to the Floridian Yacht and Golf Club in Palm City, Fla., where he golfed with Tiger Woods and a tight-knit group of friends at the golf course and residential compound, demonstrated a new willingness to ignore criticism about his private recreational choices in his second and final term. But the vacation also clashed awkwardly with his message last week, which included post-State of the Union trips to North Carolina, Georgia and Illinois to talk up issues such as education and gun violence.

As soon as the trips were over, Mr. Obama was making news for hitting the links with Mr. Woods, whose golfing legacy has been tarnished in recent years by a string of adultery scandals. The White House press corps was also up in arms for being kept at bay while Mr. Obama was at the Floridian, without being allowed even the customary golfing photo op.

White House deputy press secretary Joshua Earnest on Monday said that Mr. Obama’s golfing buddies for the day were Dr. Eric Whitaker, a friend from Chicago, Ron Kirk, the departing U.S. trade representative, and White House aide Marvin Nicholson.

The White House was so tight-lipped it wouldn’t even say what brand of golf clubs the president was using.

After Mr. Obama disappeared late Friday inside the gates of the Floridian, which is owned by Houston businessman and Obama donor Jim Crane, the traveling press corps did not see him all weekend. Reporters were holed up in a van on the compound without even a passing view of the president while he hit the links.

During the weekend, however, Tim Rosaforte, a writer with Golf Digest magazine, posted reports on Twitter from inside the golf compound about Mr. Obama’s rounds with Mr. Woods and others, including Butch Harmon, Mr. Woods’ former swing coach. Mr. Rosaforte’s reports riled the White House press corps, whose media outlets had paid for them to travel to Florida.

Ed Henry, the president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, formally complained to the White House about the lack of access.

But Mr. Earnest said the White House never promised press access when it announced the trip and seemed to imply that the press corps should have known better than to expect any photo ops or interaction with Mr. Obama.

“The press access granted by the White House today is entirely consistent with the press access offered for previous presidential golf outings,” Mr. Earnest said. “It’s also consistent with the press access promised to the White House press corps prior to arrival in Florida on Friday evening.”

With Congress out until next week, Mr. Obama returns to a light Washington schedule this week — even with the March 1 deadline for deep, across-the-board sequester budget cuts looming. The most significant news event scheduled this week is a Friday visit to the White House by new Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The two leaders plan to discuss their response to North Korea’s nuclear test last week. Mr. Obama last week called the new Japanese leader to pledge to seek “significant action” against North Korea at the United Nations and reiterated his commitment to defending Japan against an attack.

• Susan Crabtree can be reached at scrabtree@washingtontimes.com.

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