Niblick Nitpicking

Forget Bipartisan Golf, Obama, and Play Against Me

Hitting the links with members of the other side of the aisle is a waste of time, no matter how much they complain. Stay away from them, Mr. President, and play a worthier opponent—me.

I see that the topic of Barack Obama’s failure to play enough bipartisan golf is back in the news. At a fundraising event in Chicago on Thursday night, he seems to have said: “There is one thing that bothers me, which is when I hear folks saying, oh, you know, if you just play golf with John Boehner more—and we’re just trying harder to be more bipartisan—then we’d get more stuff done. That’s not the problem. On every issue, we are more than happy to sit down in a reasonable fashion and compromise. The problem is not that we’re too mean or we’re too partisan. The problem is I don’t have enough votes, full stop.”

I agree that this niblick nitpicking is ridiculous. Well, OK. I can partially understand it as a metaphor. Which is to say, I’ve heard even from Democrats, indeed a number of Democrats, who say the guy is remote and that he’d have more Democrats on the Hill willing to go to the mat for him if he were a little warmer, had them and their families to the White House more, that sort of thing.

But I think Obama is totally in the right to say that no amount of golf with John Boehner would change anything as far as Republicans are concerned. He could invite some of those loonier House members and senators to the Congressional Country Club one day and Burning Tree the next, every day for the next year, and it wouldn’t turn a single vote. Total waste of time.

And not only that, they’d surely take video of him on the sly with their smartphones, topping one about 10 yards out of a perfect fairway lie, and maybe even with the added effect of him yelling, as anyone who’s ever done that can tell you everyone yells, “Oh, holy motherfucker!” It would end up on Fox that night. Let me tell you, you look pretty silly nearly whiffing a stationary ball. Now if you play golf, you know that it’s harder to hit a stationary ball than a moving one—a tennis ball rallied across the net by your opponent, say—for reasons of physics that are too technical to get into here. But 80 or whatever percent of America doesn’t play golf, and so they’ll just think, “How could that bozo nearly miss a ball just sitting there, and then curse like that on top of it, and be our president?!” He’d never shake it.

No, Mr. P. Stay away from those monsters.

Here’s what you need to do. Play golf with me.

First, I’m not very good. I’ve gotten to the point now where I break 100 pretty consistently (although I have to admit I played this weekend and was so disgusted that I quit after nine). I guess, pathetic as that sounds, it makes me not bad. One of my regular playing companions, a near-scratch golfer himself, once told me that three-quarters of duffers never break 100. I don’t know if that’s true and I’m loath to check it in case it’s not. But assuming it is true, then I’m in the 25th percentile.

Whoopee. But it’s still not really good. To me, good is you consistently shoot 90 or better. I once—once—shot a 45 playing nine. Let me tell you, I felt like Tiger Woods tearing up Augusta that one year long ago. I gather you might not be in that category, sir, but as I say, neither am I. I’ll be punching out from under as many trees as you. And I’ll miss plenty of 4-footers.

Second, I have a pretty promiscuous relationship to the rules. The standard thing, for those of you who don’t know, is that the last putt can be a gimme if it’s less than the length of the shaft of the putter below the grip—around 2 feet. As I am liberal in my politics, sir, I am likewise pretty liberal with this rule. Three feet on the front nine; on the back, I say a gimme can creep to 4, depending. There’s also this business of lies. Fiddle with your lie all you want, sir. Not with your fingers. Only with the club head, OK? Gotta draw the line somewhere. But—you’re in a divot in the fairway? The hell with that. Life, and golf, are hard enough. Move the ball. I’ll look away.

Third, I’m very discreet. I mean, I know stuff about you that I haven’t published, cuz I was told it on confidential, off-the-record terms. So if the idea is that your playing partners are supposed to keep your score secret, why, I’ll carry it to my grave, if that’s the imposed condition. Yes, even if I beat you. I might suggest that I merely be asked to keep the score confidential until the afternoon of January 20, 2017, which, I’m guessing, will find you on a course somewhere in Hawaii. I’ll play that round with you, too, if you want.

Fourth, I’m fun. I’m a funny guy. I heard on Julie Mason’s radio show this week that you care about that out on the links. Well, my friends seem to like my company. And we’d hit it off, you and I. We’re about the same age you and I. We share a lot of the same cultural touchstones. We probably remember the same episodes of Love, American Style and all that kind of stuff. And remember the big debate in high school, how you had to be either a Leftoverture person or a 2012 person? I know that like me, you were neither. Same with Farrah Fawcett-Cheryl Ladd, right? I knew it. Kate Jackson, dude.

Your instincts are correct. Don’t try to solve the country’s problems on the golf course. Although I can probably help do that, too, now that I think about it. But I won’t push that angle. You wanna talk a little Thomas Piketty, OK. But let’s just forget politics. Time’s too precious. It may be your only chance to play with me.