President Trump got himself in trouble again this week, by pre-emptively tweeting on Christmas that the next day, he’d be getting “back to work”— and then proceeding to play golf on December 26 and December 27, when he stands accused of having hired a truck to strategically locate itself so as to block reporters’ shots of him putting.
Predictably, this all kicked off rounds of liberal howling. On the front page of DailyKos, there was a post calling him a "full-time professional golfer, sponsored by U.S. taxpayers,” and "easily the laziest president in modern history.” He also earned a critical post from ThinkProgress, a sarcastic tweet from Think Progress’ editor, and a Rachel Maddow blog post calling him out for hypocrisy, broken promises, lying about his leisure activities, and self-enriching by playing at Trump properties.
But fair as those charges may be, the massive pile-on over presidential golfing remains is as stupid as ever, and should mostly serve to remind us that it’s time to retire “he golfs too much” as a partisan attack line.
Oh sure, there are signs it’s effective; the strategically-placed truck is just the latest hint that the White House sees as damaging claims that Trump spends too much time walking around golf greens and too little time “presidenting." Fans of President Obama found the same charges against him unfair, but damaging, too; more than one Democratic consultant I know has quietly admitted they hated attention focused on Obama’s golfing habit, because they felt it tied in with stereotypes some detractors were keen to advance of African-American men being insufficiently hardworking.
It’s also comforting to those leveling the charges, since partisans on both sides have long volleyed golf-focused attacks on Presidents of different philosophical persuasions and partisan affiliations. Everyone can remember the opening of Fahrenheit 9/11, which seemed to suggest President Bush cared more about golf than actually safeguarding the homeland. Obamanians remember Obama/golf memes posted by Trump and his supporters on Twitter. Now, Trump supporters get to see their guy poked and prodded by people who supported the guys previously subject to the poking and prodding. For those doing the haranguing, it’s fun, and feels slightly vindicating.
But it’s still juvenile and nonsensical, and could even end up being counter-productive if it baits Trump into putting in more time at the office.
Let’s acknowledge first of all that everyone needs both downtime and exercise in order to function properly as a human being— and the fact that whether you love it or hate it, golf undoubtedly provides its players with both. Typically, it involves some walking, some swinging, some bending and crouching, and people who love it say it helps clear and calm their minds. No wonder, then, that it has been a favorite pastime of multiple presidents.
No one can be on the job 24/7/365, whether it’s a Starbucks barista, an assembly-line worker at a Ford factory, or an American president — which is arguably the toughest, most stressful and most-strapped-to-an-office-chair-and-a-phone job around. If there’s anyone for whom getting in rounds of golf would seemingly be important, it’s our successive Commanders-in-Chief.
And for Trump, especially, there are particular reasons why people should be gratified, not repelled, at his pursuit of the sport.
First, Trump is no spring chicken. He is the oldest president we have ever elected. While he maintained during the campaign that he was a model of health, photographic evidence suggests otherwise. He is clearly overweight. His skin is in poor condition (often a sign of excess stress and unhealthy habits). He cheerfully admits to food choices that would make your average nutritionist shriek in horror. And he occupies arguably the most important job in the world, where in any given minute, he could take literally life-or-death decisions affecting millions, perhaps even billions of people. This is a guy who from a basic, physical health standpoint, is bound to need more breaks than we might be inclined to give him.
To further state the obvious, Trump is not a guy who came to the presidency with an intricate working knowledge of policy, and how tweaks to it can have massive ramifications across American society, the economy, and foreign relations. He’s facing perhaps the toughest challenge any president has faced in a decade or more in North Korea. He plainly lacks the staff necessary to do the best possible job on any given day. If there’s one thing we should all hope for, even if we dislike Trump and think he’s wholly unfit to be President or simply wrong on policy, it’s that he should have ample opportunities to collect his thoughts, reflect, pause and clear his head so he can make the best possible decisions. Seriously, there’s a lot riding on this.
But let’s also be more practical. Set aside the hypocrisy of people who defended Obama against charges of too much golfing now turning around to level those same accusations at Trump (yes, yes, he golfs more than Obama did, but as noted, he might need to golf more than President 44). If Trump takes these people’s advice, won’t they have procured a situation in which they get loads more policy outcomes they hate in exchange for what is often pretty petty trolling and smart-ass tweets?
The truth is, the more time Trump spends in the Oval Office, signing executive orders and meeting with key personnel, the more likely it is that he’s going to move the country in a direction that the #resist movement, their friends, allies and fans loathe— and those of us who are no fans of Trump or #resist are going to get screwed along the way, too.
Bottom line: Would you rather have him playing golf or cooking up schemes to start a trade war with China? Would you rather have him debating between different irons on the links or signing more executive orders that limit immigration and upstep mass deportations? Would you rather have him riding around in a golf cart or talking to basically any foreign leader you could choose out of a hat on the phone, given his limited ability to adhere to a script and the current challenges the world is facing?
I’ll take the golfing. The more of it, the better. Yes, for a few more years, all of us taxpayers will be on the hook for costs that seem to do little to directly ensure a more competent federal government. That sucks, but it’s a rounding error in the scheme of things.
Quit the sniping, and let Trump golf. Then, let his successor golf. It’s for the good of the country, and at this point, maybe even humanity.