"Pretty is as pretty does" is a familiar refrain from youth. In a nod to my mother, the saying now echoes in my own home, along with the rolling eyes of teenage girls that never seem to change from one generation to the next. So much in life is beyond our control, but nothing trumps a lack of power quite so well as the utter dominance of our own character. Character is -- still and forever -- as character does.
Countless "golf widows" have questioned the character of golf-obsessed spouses. For all the critical moments in life, there always seems to be an ill-timed escape to a sunny, inviting course. For all the resentment, many of us throw in the towel, embracing the game ourselves. We eventually delight in seeing the time a child and parent can spend together in a shared passion - hours of uninterrupted conversation and teachable moments - as it should be.
Sadly, I doubt Obama has those treasured memories -- certainly not with his father. He wasn't likely to have played golf during the formative years he spent in Indonesia, or with his grandfather, and his radical friends, when Obama was returned to the States. In fact, Obama doesn't mention playing golf, ever, in either of his two biographical memoirs. Golf isn't the end-all in character-building opportunities, of course. Obama may have found those lessons in another sport or hobby. Either way, he's certainly making up for lost time on the links.
In the 784 days he has occupied the office of the President, Obama has played 61 rounds of golf. A staggering number for nearly anyone, considering that averages to a round of golf approximately every 13 days.
Obama reached out to our crippled ally, Japan, on a Friday afternoon, and managed to escape to the links by Saturday, which should surprise no one. In fact, it's become the norm for Obama. It may seem natural to make the comparisons to Bush's rather anemic Katrina response, but it's wholly illogical, even beyond the geography that separates the U.S. and Japan.
A "Katrina Moment" for Obama could never actually exist, and not just because his media would never endorse it. Collective outrage really only works for Leftists if there's a narrative to perpetuate, or a conservative to blame. Obama is not wholly indifferent to suffering, but he is indifferent to suffering that can't be blamed on a conservative - and a Japanese culture that practices personal responsibility of the extreme hardly qualifies. So -- why not a round of golf? Why not 61 rounds of golf!
Bush said one of the most regrettable moments of his Presidency, and rightfully so, was the photo taken of him as he did a ‘flyover' of the Katrina devastation from the comfort of Air Force One. No matter his intentions, the utter lack of any appropriate State level response, or what actions preceded or followed, the flyover made him appear detached, and without compassion - ‘above it all,' so to speak. Obama seems similarly obtuse to his time on the golf course at the most remarkable moments. As the Japanese identify loved ones lost, and clean up begins, and the unimaginable cost of rebuilding is realized, they're not likely to forget.
In Japanese culture where people live and work in close proximity and with great respect for one another, "Tatemae," is a familiar, yet unspoken, term for one's behavior for the sake of appearances; or what one may say or do in public in order to keep harmony with those around you. One's true feelings or intent -- though not shown in public -- is known as "Honne."
In a culture where every gesture has meaning, it can sometimes seem to outsiders that this type of ‘front,' even if only to spare feelings, is less than genuine. But, in fact, it's a politeness to the extreme, and it seems totally lost on a President who loses face each time he has the hubris to step on to the golf course during times of tragedy.
His incessant golfing isn't just insensitive. The baseball cap and shorts don't just reveal his immaturity. His actions tell us he is unaware of the world on fire around him. That it's someone else's concern. As any golf widow knows, it's the need to escape while those around him cannot, that is so irksome. He either believes his actions have no bearing on what's happening, or he simply doesn't care.
Today, I almost feel sorry for the mere mortal; a man who likely never had even a chance at the building blocks required to develop real character; in a parent, a teacher, a rational mentor. Lessons unspoken but lived in example - lessons in Honne - a show of humility, even when the golf course beckons.
On May 25th, 2009 - Memorial Day -- Obama observed a moment of silence while on the golf course, in a show of national unity. I thought that Memorial Day ‘gesture' - a glimpse of Tatemae amidst Honne - was among the most insulting of Obama's golfing moments. Until now.
Character is as character does.