Golf: A Measure of a President’s Success

By Taylor Larson

Consider which politician you would rather play golf with: Bush or Obama? Lincoln or Jefferson? Bill or Hillary?

Today, in a panel moderated by Susan Page, Steve Thomma (White House Correspondent and Politics Editor for McClatchy Newspaperand Bob Cusack (Editor in Chief of The Hill) discussed reporting on Congress and the Obama Administration when an unexpected topic came up– golf.

When asked about Obama’s relationship with Congress and vice versa, Cusack explained the mutual lack of trust by saying,

“[He] doesn’t play golf with members of Congress.”

The New York Times explained Cusack’s feelings by saying much the same: “Legislators from both parties have grumbled for years that the Obama White House doesn’t reach out to them much or even pay enough attention to small gestures such as White House tour tickets or Christmas cards.”

Compared to other Democratic presidents, many claim Obama paints a cold demeanor; for many congressmen, a lack of phone calls and overall hospitality go hand-in-hand with veto threats.

Susan Page (left), Bob Cusack (middle), and Steve Thomma (right) discuss covering Washington politics on Monday morning, January 12.

Susan Page (left), Bob Cusack (middle), and Steve Thomma (right) discuss covering Washington politics on Monday morning, January 12. Photo by Taylor Larson

The President, however, doesn’t intend to be the mean girl: “I like Speaker Boehner personally, and when we went out and played golf we had a great time. But that didn’t get a deal done.”

Since when is shying away from mixing work and play such taboo? And doesn’t a phone work both ways?

It may take two to tango, but Congress feels snubbed by Obama’s introverted management styles. The New York Times saw the difference in 2012: “Culturally, we tend to associate leadership with extroversion and attach less importance to judgment, vision and mettle. We prize leaders who are eager talkers over those who have something to say. In 2004, we praised George W. Bush because we wanted to drink a beer with him. Now we criticize President Obama because he won’t drink one with us.”

After every administration, the United States seems to add another requirement to becoming President. Post-Obama nominees better be ready to send Christmas cards, venture from the White House for regular rounds of golf, get drunk with members of Congress, and play nice.

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