- - Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The whole world knows what happened. President Obama stood before the cameras to share his outrage at the horrific beheading of a heroic young American reporter by the Islamic State. As soon as the cameras were turned off, he headed off to the golf course to tee it up with a few of his friends. It was one of nine rounds of golf he managed to get in during serious crises, both domestic and international. That was pretty good for an amateur.

The apologists in the liberal media got their knickers in a big twist. It seems like such a crass thing to do, and almost, well, Republican. Can you imagine their reaction if it actually had been a Republican golfer? The left would have had a stroke. It wasn’t, though, and most of them could do no more than wag away about the stress of their progressive hero surrounded by preppies on the Vineyard. There were a few pundits that were actually indignant, but that was primarily because the episode betrayed their favorite criticism of his predecessor. After all, it was none other than this same duffer-in-chief who famously promised, if he were ever elected president, to repudiate the unforgivable sin of taking vacations while in office.

The president himself was not troubled by all the noise in the gallery, however. He is good at compartmentalizing his work. Golf is work, an important part of on-the-job training any president is entitled to. The job always includes golf — at least it does for two-termers. It is hard to fill their shoes, with or without cleats. It is a particular challenge to have to play the sport of golf, even from an electric cart, when you have the habit of reverse-pivoting all the time. That is a handicap that you really have to work on, and on the links, it is a lot harder than reading from a teleprompter. In golf, you have to play your own game. There is no privilege on the course, not even the bunkers and hazards care who you are. The toadies in the liberal media can’t hold your bag — they don’t have the backbone. It’s really rough.

The press should just enjoy watching the masters. There is nothing to worry about. It is not a vacation for the president. A duffer-in-chief who never got the chance to play varsity needs the practice. The president has to retire soon and be on top of his game. He only has two years left in office to get there, and that might be only a hundred more rounds. After that, he will have to play in a charity event or two with one or more of his predecessors. They also get to play a lot of golf. He might be able to beat Hill, but Bill is a different story. The president needs to get ready.

He might even have to play with a Republican at the exclusive Former President’s Club. Republicans are adversaries. but just like the game of politics, golf is typically not the focus of their professional life. They usually have had real jobs in the private sector, where they contribute to the wealth of the country instead of just trying to figure out how to spend it. For most Republicans, therefore, golf is just a distracting pastime, a leisure activity. The competition is called a Nassau, and the game of golf is not their day job. The baffling thing is that they manage to be so good at it, by and large. That is because it is the sport of business, and it helps to be decisive. It makes a three-foot putt a more manageable affair.

Finally, one thing that all golfers know and share — no matter how good or bad they are — is that golf is one of the best ways to get away from the world. It is not the only way. It was said of a Roman emperor, for example, that he fiddled while Rome burned. The president doesn’t know how to play the fiddle, and golf wasn’t invented then anyway. So while the world may be burning, there is probably nothing better to do than to go golfing with a few friends. All Lady Liberty has to do is to learn how to be a golf widow, at least for two more years.

Warren L. Dean Jr. is an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center.

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