Spin Cycle

02.17.13

The Press Is Peeved at the Golfing President

They cool their heels while he hangs with Tiger

The White House press corps is pissed at the president.

He spent the weekend golfing, and all they got was to cool their heels.

Obama hit the links with Tiger Woods, and they got the shaft.

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President Barack Obama prepares to putt while playing golf at Farm Neck Golf Club, in Oak Bluffs, Mass., on the island of Martha's Vineyard, Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2011. (Steven Senne/AP)

The grumbling reporters went public on Sunday evening.

Ed Henry, president of the White House Correspondents Association, declared in a statement that a broad cross section of our members from print, radio, online and TV have today expressed extreme frustration to me about having absolutely no access to the president of the United States this entire weekend. There is a very simple but important principle we will continue to fight for today and in the days ahead: transparency.”

The White House responded to the Fox correspondent’s broadside with its own statement.

“The press access granted by the White House today is entirely consistent with the press access offered for previous presidential golf outings,” said Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest. “It's also consistent with the press access promised to the White House Press Corps prior to arrival in Florida on Friday evening.”

I understand the frustration of the media folks stranded in Florida (even while thinking they had it better than those of us enduring the frigid D.C. weather). Their news organizations spend many thousands of dollars so they can follow the president around the world. This means flying off well before he leaves, flying back well after he takes off to return, and generally being kept in depressing filing centers far from the commander-in-chief.

The journalists rely instead on reports from their designated pool, which also may be kept far from the action. Here’s a typical report from Port St. Lucie on Saturday: “All the partying is over here on the bus, but POTUS day inside the Floridian compound continues. We have been told he will not be leaving its gated confines.” 

When Obama is making news, the situation may be tolerable. When Obama is on vacation, and not making any pretense of working, like this weekend, the boredom seems pointless. When George W. Bush hit the ranch in Crawford, reporters were holed up in Waco.

Why accompany the president on vacation? The real reason is the body watch—in case anything happens to him, major news outlets want their person nearby. If a crisis erupts, the president might go to the microphones.

But sometimes, like this weekend, he’s just playing with Tiger (a spectacle that would have been unthinkable a couple of years ago when the champion’s career imploded amid multiple mistresses Of course, it's no accident that the White House didn't release a photo).

Still, while the press corps merely wants to be able to do its job, I have to say:

The president’s on vacation.

He’s entitled to a few days off.

He’s not making any news.

It’s not him, it’s you.

Give the guy a break. You’ll see more of him soon enough. Or at least your designated poolers will during the next photo op.