Obama: Too much frivolity in time of crisis?
President Obama is coming under criticism for taking rest and relaxation at the wrong time.
Is this a “good time for the president to be seen having a good time”? said Ron Smith in The Baltimore Sun. U.S. warplanes are bombing Libya as Muammar al-Qaddafi continues to slaughter his people. Yemen, Bahrain, and the rest of the Middle East are teetering on the brink. Japan is still reeling from one of the most damaging earthquakes in history and the resulting nuclear meltdown. And yet Barack Obama took some time off last week to go golfing—the 61st round of his presidency—and then taped a segment for ESPN announcing his picks for the NCAA basketball tournament. This week, Obama jumped on Air Force One with his family for a state visit to Brazil. “I know this may sound churlish,” but couldn’t Obama give “at least an appearance of involvement” in the planet’s multiple crises?
Obama’s “ability to detach from reality” is spectacular, said Jeannie DeAngelis in AmericanThinker.com. In addition to the global mess, he should be dealing with the broken U.S. economy, the battered housing market, and the ongoing congressional budget negotiations to reduce the federal deficit. But no: Off to Rio he went. How nice that our president can still pursue an “extravagant, elitist lifestyle free from concern and adult responsibility.”
This is a “common political attack,” said Dan Amira in NYMagâ€‹.com. Just as Democrats blasted George W. Bush for clearing brush on his Texas ranch, and Ronald Reagan for riding horses in California, the Right is now savaging Obama for taking nine minutes to share his March Madness brackets with the nation. In that brief TV appearance from the White House, not incidentally, Obama urged hundreds of thousands of ESPN viewers to donate to the Japan relief effort. This will have helped the people of Japan far more than if he’d canceled the brief segment for fear of “superficially damaging optics.” As for Obama’s trip to Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador, said Mac Margolis in TheDailyBeast.com, it is anything but a vacation. It’s a bridge-building trip to prosperous Latin American nations, which, the administration hopes, could help revive the U.S. economy by importing more of our products. For Obama to make Brazil—and job creation—a “diplomatic priority” proves that he is doing his job, not that he isn’t.
The problem is not that Obama has a fondness for golf, said Kimberley Strassel in The Wall Street Journal, or for basketball or foreign travel. The problem is that he has an aversion to making difficult or politically dangerous decisions. It seems he’d much rather be picking Kansas over Duke on ESPN than in the Oval Office deciding whether to back Libyan rebels against Qaddafi. The man’s fatal addiction isn’t to sports—it’s to “political safety.”
The presidency is “a brutal job,” said John Gordon, also in The Wall Street Journal, and criticizing Obama for an occasional golf round is “a cheap shot.” Most of Obama’s predecessors found some solace and relaxation in diversions, too: FDR spent up to two hours a day on his stamp collection; Teddy Roosevelt left the White House to go hunting “for days at a time”; Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy played golf as often as they could. And why not? If the beleaguered leader of the free world “can’t lay down the terrible burdens of the office for an hour or two, he might not make the right tough choice when he needs to.”