Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Tee party

President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner get to flex their golfing skills tomorrow and we’re guessing there’s plenty of pre-game strategizing going on.

Is Obama telling Vice President Joe Biden, arguably the best golfer of the four, to hold back on the hole-in-ones? They do after all want Boehner amenable to their views on the debt limit stand-off.

Is Ohio Governor John Kasich giving Boehner advice on how to keep the Veep off-guard so they can ruin his handicap and have bragging rights on the Republican versus Democrat scoreboard?

And will the political foursome keep up with appearances and wear that loud clothing golfers seem to like so much, and which can make a bystander cringe?

But is golf really about winning or how you play the game? In this case it will be a success if no one ends up teed off…

Is time off allowed during a mammoth oil spill crisis? Depends…

BP CEO Tony Hayward takes time off to watch his yacht race in British waters, President Barack Obama goes golfing over the Father’s Day weekend. OIL-SPILL/

Is that acceptable when the BP oil spill, the worst in U.S. history and a huge environmental disaster, is entering a third month in the Gulf of Mexico?

Well, depends on who you talk to.

The White House on Monday made a cutting remark about Hayward’s yacht trip: “Look, if Tony Hayward wants to put a skimmer on that yacht and bring it down to the Gulf, we’d be happy to have his help,” White House spokesman Bill Burton said at the daily media briefing. 

Obama tees up his “staycation”

President Barack Obama is following up his busy week in Martha’s Vineyard with … another holiday. But, like many Americans in this time of economic recession, he is taking a “staycation” — time off without leaving home.

In Obama’s case, home is the White House, and as president he cannot truly leave his work behind. His “break” on Martha’s Vineyard was interrupted repeatedly by breakingUSA/OBAMA news, including his renomination of Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve and the death of Obama’s friend and former colleague, the late Senator Edward Kennedy.

But the president appears to be doing his best to relax. He squeezed in four golf outings last week on the Massachusetts island, and on Monday he headed out at lunchtime, beginning his “staycation” with another round of golf, this time at a country club outside Washington.

What is it about presidents and golf?

OBAMA/President Barack Obama seems to have a new favorite past-time. The 48-year-old campaigned as a basketball player, but now his heart seems to belong to the links. He has squeezed at least four golf outings — three for 18 holes and one just nine — into his week-long vacation on the Massachusetts island Martha’s Vineyard, despite two days of rain and a trip over to Boston for the funeral of his friend and former colleague, the late Senator Edward Kennedy.******Lately Obama has also been golfing on most Sundays when he is in Washington, generally on courses at military bases near the city.******His foursomes are more likely to include long-time friends and aides than well-heeled contacts — this week he golfed with a top executive of the UBS investment bank, but he also played with a White House assistant chef and a press aide.******The habit has attracted a few jibes. Anti-war protester Cindy Sheehan used it to publicize a news conference she was planning on the island during Obama’s visit. “When President Obama was playing golf yesterday, four soldiers died in Afghanistan,” Sheehan said in a flyer distributed at the Martha’s Vineyard White House press center this week.******But for U.S. presidents, golfing is — er — par for the course. Fifteen of the past 18, including Obama, have golfed, according to Golf Digest magazine. Obama explained its appeal for him this summer in an interview with CBS News. Although he was unhappy with the state of his game (he took more than five hours to play 18 holes this week, and a woman who lived near one course described his ball hitting a tree), he said it gives him a chance to relax and spend time with friends, largely unobserved (the Secret Service is around, but often off in the woods, Obama said) and away from reporters and photographers.******”It is the only time that, for six hours, first of all, that I’m outside. And second of all, where you almost feel normal, in the sense that you’re not in a bubble,” he told CBS News.******OBAMA/Golf Digest ranked John F. Kennedy as the top presidential golfer, noting that his average score was 80, despite chronic back pain. Back in January, it put the athletic Obama 8th.******The presidents who didn’t golf? Golf Digest says they were Jimmy Carter , Harry Truman and Franklin Roosevelt. But Roosevelt would have been another golfing president if he had had his way. According to the Armchair Golf Blog, Roosevelt loved playing golf as a young man, but polio in 1923 forced him to give the game up.******Photo credits: Obama golfing on Martha’s Vineyard, Reuters/JASON REED

Obama’s summer holiday reading list: 2,300 pages

OBAMA/President Barack Obama is squeezing some reading into his week-long Martha’s Vineyard vacation. OK, a lot more than “some.”

The brainy president has brought along a stack of five books– three novels and two works of non-fiction — to amuse himself in between rounds of golf, visits with friends, activities with his family and the inescapable business of running the country while he is on the Massachusetts island.

Two of the novels are thrillers, but his reading list is hardly light, literally or figuratively, with a total for the five books of more than 2,300 pages.

U.S.: Chavez comments par for the course

He’s driven Exxon out of his country and suggested former U.S. President George W. Bush was the devil incarnate.

But Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez really teed off the State Department with his latest outrage — calling golf a bourgeois sport.

“My position, independent of what anyone else thinks, is that it’s a bourgeois sport,” the baseball-loving Chavez told his weekly television audience in July.

Duffer: An unskilled golfer, also called a hacker

U.S. President-elect Barack Obama can body-surf with the best of them.

But can he golf?golf3
Obama, who freely admits not being very good,  sent great chunks of grass flying as he warmed up on the driving range at a private golf club on the Hawaiian island of Oahu before hitting the course  on Christmas Eve.
Several wincing observers also accused him of shanking, which golfers define as striking the ball badly by smacking it with the heel of the club.
Later, as he practiced his putting, a little boy watching him from the clubhouse was heard defending him after he missed several attempts to sink the ball.
“He’s just practicing,” the boy said. Onlookers debated whether the president-elect was being put off his stride by all the people watching him.

Mid-way through the game, Obama greeted a group of onlookers who asked him how the golf was going. “I’m terrible,” he replied to one person. “Got any tips?” he asked someone else. 

It was Obama’s second golf excursion in four days since jetting into Oahu on Saturday for a two-week vacation with his family.