Golfing while the world burns?

President Barack Obama squats by a golf course green. Image copyright Getty Images

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President Barack Obama's passion for golf has long been a hobbyhorse for those on the right. The charge that the president is shirking his duty by relaxing on the links plays straight into the firmly held belief among conservatives that the president is both aloof and in over his head.

Such attacks on presidential vacations are far from new. President George W Bush received plenty of flak from the left over his frequent Crawford ranch trips. His golf course condemnation of terrorism followed by a "now watch this drive" boast was the subject of much derision. In 2003 Mr Bush gave up golfing for the rest of his presidency because he said it "just sends the wrong signal".

The president-golfs-while-the-world-burns view may be gaining some traction in the mainstream press. With the ongoing racial unrest in Ferguson, Missouri and the beheading of US journalist James Foley making headlines last week, the contrast with a president at play on Martha's Vineyard fairways was particularly stark.

Over the weekend, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd penned a scathing mock "Golf Address" by the president.

"Four! Score? And seven trillion rounds ago", she starts. She then has the president lament not being able to play for the rest of his presidency.

On Tuesday Politico's Roger Simon took a more traditional approach - but his critique was equally sharp. No one, he says, seems to be in control of the White House's message machine.

He writes:

"Was there anyone who said last week: 'Uh, the golf thing, Mr. President? Maybe delay it a couple of days? So it doesn't come minutes after you tell the nation how 'heartbroken' you are over a beheaded journalist. Maybe go hiking? Sit on a rock, commune with nature, that kind of thing?'"

The new Obama Doctrine, he concludes, could be summed up: "Speak softly and carry a Big Bertha." (That's a kind of golf club, for the uninitiated.)

"We are left with a president who seems wrapped in his aloofness as a protective blanket to keep the outside from getting in," he writes.

He says that this may not matter to the president as he approaches the final two years of his term, but it could be damaging for Hillary Clinton - the Democrat who seems likely to seek to succeed him. She has her own problems with aloofness, he says, and the public may be ready for a more visibly engaged president.

Elsewhere on Politico, former Obama White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton says that attacks on the president for his golf last week are misguided. Mr Obama, he says, is fully in charge wherever he is.

"In the end, it's not about the optics," he writes. "It's about doing your job. And if the president is doing his - which he is - we should all be able to appreciate the fact that he is taking the opportunity to be a dad, a husband and even a leader of the free world who can clear his head on the golf course."


In the turbulent wake of intervention - Following recent air strikes on militia positions in Tripoli, reportedly carried out by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, the Middle East Eye's Steve Fox warns that intervention may not quell the fighting in Libya - it could make it worse.

Libya's bombing "reinforces the suspicion that the country's worsening civil war is now the plaything of a struggle between two Gulf states, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates," Fox writes.

With a history of foreign interference, Libyans are "resistant to foreign meddling, from whatever source." Their resistance might not be enough to stop "the temptation of the Gulf states, however, and anyone else eyeing Libya's rich oil bounty" from meddling.


The Al Qaeda threat that isn't there - Could islamic militants be in Mexico? Texas Governor Rick Perry says that's a "very real possibility", even though both Mr Perry and the Pentagon have said there's "no clear evidence" to suggest this.

Following his remarks, "the Mexican government is expressing some irritation" with the governor, writes Joshua Keating for Slate.

"Again, it's not outside the realm of possibility that someone planning an attack could sneak over the border," he says.

"But the scant reports of terrorists trying to enter the US illegally are far outnumbered by the numerous well-documented plots by native-born Americans, naturalised citizens, and foreigners entering the country with valid passports and visas."


IS is an overrated enemy - While the Pentagon is touting the Islamic State (IS) as sophisticated and skilled "beyond anything we've seen", these official words should not be taken without a grain of salt, writes Jack Shafer for Reuters.

"When at war - or about to go to war - the state craves greater acquiescence from its citizens and greater powers, and granted that acquiescence and those new powers it grows ever larger," he writes.

Although the fast ascent of the extremist group should be taken seriously, it "does not necessarily make Islamic State strong and fearful as much as it showcases the relative weaknesses of the Syrian and Iraq governments".

In the wake of the US military involvement in the Middle East, Shafer emphasises that although enemies exist, "boogeymen don't".


National optimism fades - A quiet crisis is brewing in Venezuela, as the country reels from a shortage of food and pharmaceuticals, a skyrocketing inflation rate, and one of the highest murder rates in the world, writes Andres Hoyos for El Espectador (translated by Worldcrunch).

"The separation of powers disappeared long ago, turning Venezuelan democracy into a hollow shell," he says.

As the political landscape continues to fracture and the once-thriving independent press is slowly liquidated by President Nicolas Maduro, Hoyos says that "the last factor feeding a growing pessimism is that people backing the regime appear to have become used to crises".

BBC Monitoring's quote of the day

A Chinese paper analyses Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's trip to Beijing to reportedly seek aid for his nation's ailing economy.

"The West should not slap sanctions on African countries who don't listen to them. If they do, they will be left behind by China in cooperation with Africa and it will not be because China chooses to take the lead, but because the West chooses to fall behind." - Editorial in Beijing's Huanqiu Shibao (Global Times)‎

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