Monday, February 13, 2017

Trump's presidential action: playing golf

It was a quiet weekend, relatively speaking. It was a weekend when President Trump acted more presidential than he had the past three weeks of his presidency. What did he do that was so presidential? He played golf with Japanese premier Shinso Abe.

The guest at Trump's golf resort in Florida said he and the president spent time getting to know each other and discussing worldly matters on the luxurious lawns of the golf course. Trump refrained from attacking anyone on Twitter while he kept a golf club in his hand instead of a smart phone. That made him seem presidential.

Ever since President Eisenhower played golf at every opportunity, hitting the links with golfing greats such as Arnold Palmer and with members of Congress or foreign visitors, forging those bonds that are needed in Washington and in the diplomatic world, presidents have played golf with people they needed to schmooze or ask favors of. News reporters were kept at a distance, far out of hearing distance from the golfers but still breathlessly reported the president's day on the links.

A president did not have to be as accomplished as Eisenhower to engage in golf diplomacy. John F. Kennedy explained why he didn't release his golf scores, as Eisenhower sometimes did; he said, unlike him, Eisenhower had never beaned a Secret Service agent with a tee shot. Richard Nixon was too intense to relax on the golf course, but he played anyway. Bill Clinton played often and invited celebrities to join him. George W. Bush played but preferred running or biking. Barack Obama loved to play golf and managed to work in outings for business or pleasure.

Donald Trump used to complain that Obama spent too much time playing golf, but now he's discovered that golf can have a presidential purpose. He flew hundreds of miles to reach a course of his choosing with his Japanese guest and spent the weekend on a golf vacation. It was the most presidential thing he's done so far.

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