White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton on Monday defended President Obama’s frequent golf outings, telling reporters it “does us all good as American citizens.”
“I don’t think that there’s a person in this country that doesn’t think that their president ought to have a little time to clear his mind,” said Burton.
But a look at the regularity with which Obama has hit the links during the first 17 months of his presidency shows that it’s been more than a little time.
Obama has played 39 times since becoming president, according to to Mark Knoller of CBS News, who is the press corps’ presidential statistician.
Since the BP oil well began gushing oil into the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, Obama has played 7 times. He played twice on vacation in North Carolina on April 23 and 24, then played three consecutive weekends in May (the 8, 15 and 22), and then June 13 and June 19.
Out of the nine weekends since the oil spill began, Obama has played golf on six of them.
The president’s 39 total rounds of golf is almost one round for every weekend that it has been warm enough for him to play or when he has been on vacation in a warmer climate.
There have been 49 weekends when the weather has permitted Obama to play or when he has been on vacation. He played his first round as president on April 26, 2009, and his last round of 2009 came on Dec. 31, in Hawaii.
Obama played Jan. 3, again in Hawaii, but then did not play again until April 3 of this year. So Obama has not played any golf for six out of the 17 months he has been president.
The president has not played 39 separate weekends. He has played many rounds on vacations, accumulating multiple rounds just as previous presidents have (President Bill Clinton played 20 rounds of golf in 20 days during a trip to Martha’s Vineyard in August 1995, getting in three rounds in one day more than once, according to Knoller).
But Obama has played far more golf than President George W. Bush did. Bush played 24 rounds during his first two years and 10 months in office, again according to Knoller’s statistics, while Obama has played 39 rounds in half that time.
Bush gave up playing golf in 2003, saying he did not think it was appropriate to play while the nation was at war.
White House spokesman Burton was asked about Obama’s golf playing after White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel criticized BP CEO Tony Hayward for yachting while the oil spill continued.
Here is the full exchange between Jonathan Weisman of The Wall Street Journal and Burton.
WEISMAN: Some Republicans are equating the President’s weekend golf games with Tony Hayward’s yacht. I wonder first, is that fair? And if it’s not fair, is it really fair to take off after Tony Hayward’s yachting?
BURTON: Well, for starters, I welcomed his yacht to the Gulf. So I don’t know if that’s taking off on it. But secondly, I don’t think that there’s a person in this country that doesn’t think that their President ought to have a little time to clear his mind. And so after a week where the President was taking on the oil spill, got an historic agreement with BP to put aside $20 billion to pay claims; after a day on Friday when he strengthened lobbying ethics rules in the White House; after going to Ohio to talk about the economy and see the progress that’s being made in some of those stimulus projects that are happening around the country — all the different issues that the President is dealing with, I think that a little bit of time to himself on Father’s Day weekend probably does us all good as American citizens that our President is taking that time.