I am sure you share my outrage that President Obama continues to feel a habitual need to take vacations, play basketball and golf. This despite the fact that he is president at a time when Islamic militants are committing atrocities, Russia and China are bullying their neighbors, race relations in America are imperfect, and the stock market has hit scary new highs and home sales are improving.
No other presidents have fiddled while Rome burned in this cavalier fashion, have they? No! Unless you count Bush I, Bush II, Clinton and Ike — golfers all. Hell, Ike was so avid he had a putting green installed on the White House lawn and they named a pine tree after him on the course at Augusta. But there were no dangers for him to worry about back in the ’50”s, unless you count possible extinction in thermonuclear war.
Nor can we forget Bush I racing his cigarette boat around Kennebunkport, and Bush II riding his bike, running, and playing cowboy on his ranch. He learned this shtick from movie cowboy Reagan who spent much of his presidency riding horses and brush whacking on his dude ranch in California. But there were no Islamic terrorist threats then, unless you count the Ayatollah. And Reagan solved that problem by sending him a cake and missiles.
Poor Carter went fishing until he was attacked by a rabbit, and he built Habitats for Humanity, but that kind of blatant do-gooderism is even more annoying to critics than playing games on the taxpayer’s time.
Kennedy had a bad back so, except for touch football and sailing, got his exercise indoors, as did Clinton. Would we really rather have Obama cheating on Michelle than play basketball and golf? Well, yes, Republicans would, but no such luck.
Frankly, if you want to find a president who had little interest in extracurricular activities, you have to go back to Nixon. He was rarely off the clock. Yes, he had a bowling alley installed in the White House basement, but he had the pins painted to resemble people on the enemies’ list so that was almost like working. Other than that he rode on the presidential yacht and visited compounds in Florida and California, but the only things he seems to have done there were drink and indulge in revenge fantasies with Bebe Rebozo and several unindicted coconspirators. He did enjoy calling Redskins coach George Allen with unsolicited suggestions for football plays, but that takes a lot less time than a round of golf.
Truman took frugal walks when he should have had his nose to the grindstone and he also played poker. He even sunk so low as to play with members of the press. He was criticized at the time for frivolously playing at the same time as he was deciding to drop the bomb on Hiroshima, but that looks more like multitasking.
Truman was not alone in sitting down to the poker table to take his mind off business. Nixon was, big surprise, a cut throat player. Ike too played, though in the White House he switched to good Republican bridge, but that may have been for PR purposes.
Roosevelt had polio and World War II to distract him from fun, yet he too played poker and other indoor games. It is said during his fireside chats you could sometimes hear him riffling the poker chips as he spoke, apparently anxious to get back to the game. He also hosted lively cocktail hours. But that may fall under the same heading as Lincoln’s remark when he heard Grant was drinking, to the effect that it might be a good idea to get the rest of his generals drunk if it worked so well.
Lincoln himself was always going out to the theater, and we see how that worked out. And several of these time wasters even frittered away hour upon hour reading books. Appalling. The more you look into it, the more it looks like all presidents have been only too ready to ditch the job in order to play games, relax, recharge. And they’ve done it on our dime!
It apparently all started with Washington. He was known to enjoy riding, hunting and a lively dance party where for hours on end he would kick up his heels to a minuet or a reel. The nerve of these people.