President Barack Obama has projected a solemn demeanor over the tragic plane crash that claimed the lives of Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife and 95 others, but his actions in the immediate hours after the news broke paint a less reverent picture.
A quick glance at pool reports filed Saturday show that not long after Obama placed a phone call extending his condolences to Polish Prime Minister Tusk, the president traveled to Fort Belvoir in Virginia to play golf with a handful of White House staffers.
On a political level, this was nothing short of stupid. The outing occurred amid mounting criticism from conservatives that President Obama has been neglecting U.S. allies, charges exemplified by the icy relations between the U.S. and Israel in recent months and a tough-love approach to Afghan president Hamid Karzai. Poland, obviously, has long been considered a key U.S. ally and maintains 2,000 troops in Afghanistan.
Additionally, Obama should have realized that golf and somber presidential moments can be a toxic mix.
Obama’s predecessor George W. Bush, whose golf outings Obama surpassed in October, was criticized for his love of the sport. A video of Bush on the fairway jumping from discussing the war on terror to inviting reporters to check out his drive was widely derided.
In 2008, the former president announced that he had given up the game in 2003 out of respect for the families of killed servicemen.
“I don’t want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the commander-in- chief playing golf,” Bush said in an interview with Yahoo News and Politico. “I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal.”
However, Obama’s misstep goes beyond politics. While Poland entered a national nightmare, the de facto leader of the free world went golfing. On a human level, that’s flatly offensive.
Justin Duckham is a Washington correspondent with the Talk Radio News Service. He was a music journalist in California before making the jump to politics. Justin was a member of UC Merced’s founding class and graduated with a degree in History and minors in American Studies and Philosophy.