Why Did John Boehner Play Golf With President Obama?

I hate it when politicians play golf.  This is a non-partisan sentiment; I'm a voter, over-taxed and worried about my kids' future, and to me, golf vividly identifies politicians with a kind of repulsive back-slapping, fat cigar, out-of-touch jetsetting.  But I'm also a sometime GOP operative and public relations advisor who's seen his share of good and bad candidates and bad optics, and I've been scratching my head over Speaker John Boehner's round of golf with the President. 

I know, I know. I should lighten up. "Golf has a grand tradition in politics!" Even the AP was amused and used the phrase of the day: " put partisanship aside." (Aww! Look at the post-partisanship!)

I get it.  No doubt hard-hitting discussions and teambuilding were happening out there, in addition to spending five plus hours whacking a little white ball with a stick, plus cocktails afterwards.  Maybe something like this:

Boehner: "Show me the line, Barry.  My ball's right in front of yours."

Obama: "Sure, JayBee.  Now watch this putt."

[STAGGERING Concentration ON 4 1/2'PUTT]

Boehner: "Great putt! Drained it!"

Biden: "What? The economy? The housing market? Ha, ha. Only kidding."

Boehner: "Great shot, Barry. Now let's talk about the War Powers Act."

No, wait. Everyone acknowledged this was strictly for yucks. ("The Speaker's goal tomorrow is breaking 80," deadpanned Boehner's press secretary; "This is a social occasion," said WH Press Secretary Jay Carney.) 

Oh well. Let's move on. Now that we've done away with the faint hope something was accomplished, let's see who won the public relations battle, aye?

Golf makes for bad optics for both parties, especially now.  Why? In case you've been too engrossed by the likes of Anthony Weiner and the washed up porn starlet from Hazzard County, here are some other things that happened in the past week or so: the IMF cut its forecast for US growth in 2011 for the second time in two months; "stagflation" crept back to the US lexicon; a report was released saying that about 1/3 of employers say they'll stop offering health insurance for employees, thanks to ObamaCare, by 2014 or so. 

And such trifles. 

But, hey, no worries.  The President's doing his own Tweets from now on. (Aside: Odd timing. Did Rep. Weiner made him jealous?)

Ahem. Anyway, one result of the current malaise is that people who hate politicians in general really hate seeing them play golf.  What's this about "grand tradition"?  Tell that to the poor "permanently unemployed" sap who paid $4 something per gallon for regular, self-serve.

Needless to say I don't care for President Obama or his policies. He the Great One of Grand Unity and Hope told us he'd be a breath of fresh air but turned out to be rotten and a bore, and more or less everything has gotten worse since he took office.  Instead of "winning the future" or whatever, we've lost 2 summers, the present, and maybe the future, too, at the hands of unrelenting arrogance, meddling, bullying, incompetence, condescension, and snobbery.  So if this awful, unqualified President is willing hit the links for the seventy-something-eth time while the country's economy implodes, etc., and as independents and women abandon him in droves, so be it.  Obama won't pay the price for it like a Republican would for his golf habits, but like many a middle aged soccer mom from Ohio and Pennsylvania, I'll chalk it up to arrogance. 

But Speaker Boehner? Et tu?

I would've enjoyed it if Boehner had instead held a presser at a dusty conference room in the basement of the Capitol on Saturday morning telling us he'd been up all night trying to reach a solution on the debt ceiling.  Instead, by partaking in this fiasco, Boehner all but snickered these two things at the GOP base:  (1) I have more in common with President Obama that with you people; and (2) I am part of the GOP establishment.   Perfect. 

And then there's the GOP presidential field.  No doubt they're polishing some memorable zingers about the President's golf habits and vacations, and what all of it reveals about Obama's absenteeism and failure to lead.  I hope they're doing this, anyway, because these things define Obama.  They're not trivial. Regardless, it sure will be tougher to hit this point home now, since Boehner's outing and photo-op has all but eliminated the sting of the President's bad imagery when it comes to golf.

Guess who wins? Obama.  For the GOP's de facto standard bearer, this was a bad move.

Bill Lalor is a former Congressional Campaign Manager and attorney in New York City.

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