14 March 2011

Another Obama Environmental Mulligan

I was amazed to hear the details of President Obama’s schedule this weekend.  America’s friend and Asian ally Japan is in a cascade of catastrophes that started with a powerful earthquake that generated a killer tsunami and is culminating in multiple nuclear reactor meltdowns.  As this nightmare news is happening in real time, what is on President Obama’s schedule: a day of golf followed by a light-hearted appearance at the annual Press Gridiron Club dinner.

It is easy to conjure up the facile excuses that the White House will have for Obama’s casual schedule.  Obama had already offered a statement of consolation for the people of Japan during his Friday press appearance. There was nothing that he could do in the Oval Office  that he could not do on the links.  A President needs some recreation to work off the pressure of being the leader of the free world. And this was the first time that President Obama had deigned to grace the Gridiron Club with his presence.

Be that as it may, it is horrible optics when there is an unfurling environmental catastrophe for the President to be spotted on the links. When President George W. Bush accepted his obligation of being a wartime President, he gave up golfing.   During his first year in office, President Obama golfed 32 times, which was more than his predecessor did two four year terms.

ABC News noted this weekend that President Obama could not wait for spring as he golfed for the second weekend in a row.  The reporter noted that these trips were not “work on your swing” trips–this is 18 hole expeditions.  No wonder why TOTUS joked at the Gridiron Club “I’m not spending time on the golf course. I’m investing time in the golf course”.  Funny but also an element of truth.

During the 2008 Presidential Campaign, Obama was obsessed about optics.  So much so, that Obama’s Acceptance Speech at Denver’s Mile High Stadium had a background of Styrofoam Greek pillars to appear Olympian.  This attention to optics is lacking while governing in Washington.  While we think of Nero fiddling while Rome burned, it is easy to think of Obama golfing while there are environmental crises.

When hearing President Obama’s leisurely links visit as Japan was on the brink, I thought of Politizoid’s parody “Same As It Ever Was”:

The reoccurring kaleidoscope image of President Obama dressed in traditional golf wear as the world is collapsing around him really resonates.  President Obama went golfing at least nine times while the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill was uncontained.  If that was not bad enough, President Obama declared that the Gulf Oil Spill was the equivalent of 9/11 and then he went out golfing for four hours.

Less than a year later, there is another grave environmental crisis.  Even though it was halfway around the globe, the United States has significant assets and interests in Japan.  This was an opportunity for President Obama to have a mulligan for his muddied response to Deepwater Horizon.

The Leader of the Free World should take a more active role than offer perfunctory sympathetic pap at a press conference and then have a weekend of leisure.  Maybe more things are being done behind the scenes, but images of meeting with National Security advisors are squeezed out by reports of the Presidential fun calendar.  It did not help that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed that US assets had delivered “some really important coolant” to a Japanese nuclear power plant, but that it did not actually happen.

It seems as Japanese nuclear reactors risk are melting down, President Obama is taking another mulligan on environmental crisis leadership.

Same as it ever was.

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