Golf is great. It’s outdoors, it’s conducive to beverage consumption, and it’s just athletic enough to make you feel like you’re accomplishing something. Golf has been called "a good walk spoiled," but since the proliferation of carts, it’s not really even that anymore. It’s more like a five-hour search for lost balls, punctuated with intermittent cursing.
But I, like most people who enjoy golf, don’t golf very often. It’s prohibitively expensive to do on a regular basis, and — as many a spouse could confirm — it takes some real mental gymnastics to label an afternoon on the links as anything but a tremendous waste of time.
So here I sit with a dusty golf bag and a handicap so high I could qualify for a parking sticker in six states. Such is the plight of those among us with limited means and a job requiring our presence during daylight hours. But that’s what you do when you have a job — work comes before play and wants are subservient to needs.
Unless, of course, you’re the President of the United States.
Don’t get me wrong; that statement is not a worm-burner directed at Barack Obama specifically. There’s no question that the 160 rounds of golf he’s logged during his time in office would qualify as obscene for anyone not retired or with "TOUR PRO" on their business cards. But lest we be caddie — er, catty — there’s no need to tee-off on him exclusively.
The fact is, our current leader is not the only president to insult our collective good sense with a golf club. Dwight Eisenhower logged more than 200 rounds at Augusta National, while President Woodrow Wilson was said to have hit four-figures across his two terms.
And for fear that we be too narrow in our criticism, vacation time in general among those in the highest office is downright embarrassing. George W. Bush, in particular, spent nearly one full year as leader of the free world on vacation. Airline pilots don’t travel this much.
It’s not hard to understand why it happens — the most powerful person in the world has free rein to schedule himself as much down time as he likes — but it’s really inexcusable behavior. Does the social isolation that comes with the presidency occlude these people from seeing how calloused their actions appear to working Americans?
It’s one thing to open your pay check and wonder what the feds are doing with all that money they’re taking out of your family’s bank account. It’s quite another, however, to wonder those things while the man in charge is lining up his bogey putt on CNN.
The president has an obligation to lead through his actions; to show the American people that, at the very least, he’s devoting his time to try and make things better. Playing golf every weekend or jet-setting back to your ranch twice a month does just the opposite. It imparts an image of arrogance and laziness, and on some subconscious level it subverts American ideals.
The opposite-party counter argument trotted out whenever someone says what I’m saying is that being president is a tough job, and every person needs time to relax. Well, to paraphrase my grandfather, relax when you’re dead, bub. People make sacrifices for their jobs every day in towns all across the country. The person with the most important job in the world needs to appear like he’s tackling his duties with 100 percent seriousness during his time in office, it’s that simple.
The life of an ex-president is nothing but five-figure speaking fees and all-expenses-paid travel to exotic destinations; you can literally do anything you want for the rest of your life. So it’s not too much to ask that the president spend his four or eight years in office on the Beltway, not the fairway.
Nate Strauch is a reporter and columnist with the Sherman-Denison (TX) Herald Democrat. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.