Watching President Obama catch hell lately, I want to assess 15-yard penalties for piling on.
Much of his trouble stems from political opponents like McConnell, Boehner, Cantor, Paul, Graham, McCain -- rednecks in suits -- unable to cope with a smart president of mixed ancestry. But now, their malice and selfishness and, dare I say it, prejudice, are spreading outward.
The only time I winced during the summer get-him frolics was when the president was photographed apparently enjoying himself playing golf shortly after announcing the beheading of an American journalist by savages. He could not have been more dignified at his official appearance.
What was he supposed to do? Not get photographed, I guess is the answer. What if his children had made him laugh? Some things are best kept private.
I realized, my problem was with the golf. Why did it have to be golf, a compelling sport that nevertheless speaks of money, free time, money, lessons, money, equipment, money, ritual, and money?
People pile on presidents. I get it. If I didn’t like the policies of President Reagan, I made fun of his horseback riding. Ditto, George W. Bush, riding a bike while warning reports sat unread on his desk.
With more than a twinge of guilt, I remember reacting, as a snide teen-ager, to President Eisenhower’s playing golf, even when African-American children were being harassed for seeking an equal public education. Why didn’t he put down the damn putter and escort those children into school? (Ike looks better all the time, as Obama will, down the line.)
Just once, I would like to hear a president say, “Thanks, but I don’t play golf. Just never learned. I was too busy working my way through school, providing for my family, getting into government, and I never could find the time or money to go off for half a day and play golf. Now it’s too late. In my little bit of free time, I’d rather… (ride a bike, swim, work outdoors, jog, play a set or two of tennis, play hoops, or just take a walk to work off steam.)"
I know that lush courses and a chance to schmooze with benefactors are inviting. At least Obama plays golf mostly with people he likes, rather than with people who have been undercutting him since Day One. (“Really? Why don’t you have a drink with Mitch McConnell?” -- one of the great things the president has ever said.)
So, yes, I admit, my personal problem was with the way the president relaxed on his deserved vacation. I fall into the category of a certain Mr. Williams – Tony Soprano’s henchman from the Old Country, real name Furio Giunta – who expresses his view of golf during a shakedown on a course.
I’ve played eight or ten times, always visiting people, and loved every outing, and totally acknowledge golf as a challenging sport, but I was afraid of getting hooked. Plus, who can afford it? Certainly not a president who is catching hell for just about everything, even from people who should know better.
“They may hate the cultural context they now find themselves teaching in, but they love their work. The Achilles’ heel of schoolteachers, one all too easily exploited by politicians, is that they love their students.”
(One of the best reads in the NYT these days is Margaret Renkl, in Nashville. In her latest post, Renkl describes the dedicated core of “born teachers” – the majority, she submits.)
(From Madeleine Albright in one of her final interviews in February):
“Putin is small and pale,” I wrote, “so cold as to be almost reptilian.” He claimed to understand why the Berlin Wall had to fall but had not expected the whole Soviet Union to collapse. “Putin is embarrassed by what happened to his country and determined to restore its greatness.” – Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, recalling her first meeting with the relatively unknown Vladimir Putin in 2000. – The New York Times, Feb. 23, 2022.