News / USA

Can 'Golf Diplomacy' Ease Obama-Boehner Tensions?

U.S. President Barack Obama greets House Speaker John Boehner before delivering remarks at a dinner of bipartisan committee chairmen and ranking members and their spouses at the White House, May 2, 2011
U.S. President Barack Obama greets House Speaker John Boehner before delivering remarks at a dinner of bipartisan committee chairmen and ranking members and their spouses at the White House, May 2, 2011
Kent Klein

President Barack Obama will host his main political rival, House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, in a round of golf on Saturday.  No substantive agreements are expected, but an afternoon of golf between the two leaders may improve their relationship.      

President Obama and the top House Republican have clashed on issues ranging from the U.S. economy to health care reform to the military action in Libya.

In hopes of easing those tensions, Mr. Obama recently invited Speaker Boehner to join him for a round of golf.

Both sides have worked to quash expectations that any serious issues will be resolved on the golf course.

But White House Press Secretary Jay Carney says the president and the speaker may be able to better work together after sharing a relaxing afternoon on the links.

“Spending a number of hours together in that kind of environment, I think, can only help improve the chances of bipartisan cooperation," he said.  "It certainly cannot hurt it.  Unless someone wins really big, and then….”  

Don Van Natta wrote a book about U.S. presidents and their golf games, titled "First Off the Tee: Presidential Hackers, Duffers, and Cheaters from Taft to Bush."  He says if either golfer is expected to win convincingly on Saturday, it is Boehner.    

“From what I have heard, Speaker Boehner is about 12 to 15 strokes better than the president, which means the president is being quite courageous in inviting the speaker to play, because without a doubt, Speaker Boehner is going to get the best of the president on the links on Saturday,” he said.

However, Mr. Obama’s playing partner will be Vice President Joe Biden, whose golf game is said to rival that of Boehner.  The speaker’s partner will be the Republican governor of his home state of Ohio, John Kasich.

President Obama usually golfs with friends and White House aides.  Van Natta says it is highly unusual for a president to invite a political opponent to join him on the course.

“The closest example in history is Lyndon Baines Johnson, who played with Senators from the opposing party who he wanted to lobby to vote for the civil rights legislation in the mid-[19]60’s,” he said.

According to Don Van Natta, Mr. Obama started playing golf about 15 years ago, at the suggestion of his wife Michelle. She was said to be concerned that her husband was being injured too often while playing basketball.

Spokesman Jay Carney says Mr. Obama plays golf for the same reason as most other presidents-to relax and take a break from the pressures of the office.

“I think a lot of presidents who have occupied this house and this West Wing look for ways to literally get outdoors where you are not surrounded by people," he said.  "The process itself is one he enjoys as much as the game, which he does enjoy, and he is a competitive guy.”

For that and other reasons, golf has been a popular pastime among U.S. leaders for at least 100 years.

Van Natta says William Howard Taft was the first U.S. president to play golf regularly, and he loved the game.

“He was actually quite upset on one occasion when he had to meet with the president from Chile," he said. "It conflicted with one of his golf outings, and he said, ‘I will be damned if I am going to give up my golf game to see this fellow.’”

Van Natta says 15 of the past 18 presidents have played golf at least occasionally.

Dwight Eisenhower played more than 800 rounds in his eight years in office, and had a putting green installed near the Oval Office.

Gerald Ford suffered damage to his image after a ball he had hit accidentally flew into a crowd of spectators and struck a woman on the head.

Both the president and the speaker have been practicing for their 18 holes on Saturday.

And in a recent interview, Boehner said playing golf is “a great way to really get to know someone.”

You May Like

Video Anti-Muslim Sponsor of Texas Cartoon Contest Draws Ire

Pamela Geller's supporters say she speaks truth about sensitive topic, while critics say she preaches 'that Islam is inherently evil' More

East Meets West in Exhibition Showing Chinese Influence on Fashion

Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition juxtaposes influence of art, imagery and culture, from Imperial China to the present day, on Western fashion and design More

South Africa Begins New Love Affair With Vinyl Records

Enthusiasts say the 'rebirth' of vinyl is resulting in a rebirth of music in South Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Mass Grave Exposes Entrenched Trafficking in Thailandi
X
May 05, 2015 5:50 PM
Police in southern Thailand have found two more camps believed to have held human trafficking victims -- one containing a buried skeleton. This comes just days after officials announced arrests in connection with the grisly discovery of 26 bodies in a mass grave at another location. Officials suspect as many as 400 mostly ethnic Rohingya from Myanmar were being held for ransom at the remote camp near the Malaysian border. Steve Sandford reports on developments in the case.
Video

Video Mass Grave Exposes Entrenched Trafficking in Thailand

Police in southern Thailand have found two more camps believed to have held human trafficking victims -- one containing a buried skeleton. This comes just days after officials announced arrests in connection with the grisly discovery of 26 bodies in a mass grave at another location. Officials suspect as many as 400 mostly ethnic Rohingya from Myanmar were being held for ransom at the remote camp near the Malaysian border. Steve Sandford reports on developments in the case.
Video

Video Russia's 'Victory Day' Glory Over Nazis Overshadowed by Ukraine

ussia is preparing to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, known since the Soviet era as “The Great Patriotic War,” with a massive parade on May 9th of military hardware and millions of medals handed out to veterans or their relatives. But critics say the Soviet-style display of power and nationalism overshadows tragic scars during and after the war that still influence politics and foreign policy, especially in the current Ukraine crisis.
Video

Video WWII Anniversary Brings Old Friends and New Worries

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II has special significance, with Russia becoming more assertive in Ukraine and sending its military planes to the edges of western countries’ airspace. Changes in the geostrategic balance and the transatlantic relationship are felt across the continent, not least in German towns that have hosted U.S. military bases since the defeat of Nazi Germany. VOA’s Al Pessin visited Schweinfurt, Germany, where a large base closed last year.
Video

Video Abraham Lincoln Funeral Re-created for 150th Civil War Anniversary

Over the last four years, commemorative events to mark the 150th anniversary of the U.S. Civil War have brought thousands of visitors to battlefields and historic landmarks across the country. As VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, the final event in the Civil War's sesquicentennial honors the final journey home of the slain American President, Abraham Lincoln.
Video

Video Campaign Raises Money to 'Uncuff' Journalists

Beginning Sunday – World Press Freedom Day – the Committee to Protect Journalists, a private U.S. group, is launching a campaign to bring attention to their plight and encourage efforts to free them. Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Volunteers Pull Together to Aid Baltimore Riot Victims

Calm has returned to Baltimore, Maryland, after authorities lifted an overnight curfew imposed almost a week ago to stem the rioting that followed the funeral of Freddie Gray - the 25-year-old black man who died of spinal injuries suffered while in police custody. Six police officers, three of them African-American, have been charged in connection with his death. Baltimore is now trying to get back to normal, in part with the help of volunteers who responded to calls to help those in the city'
Video

Video From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil War

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video Rural Nepal Suffers Brunt of Quake’s Devastation

Nepal is still coming to grips with the full extent of the devastation and misery caused by last Saturday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake. Some of the hardest-hit communities have been cut off by landslides making it difficult to assess the precise toll. A VOA News crew has been among the first to reach a few of the smaller, remote communities. Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Sindhupolchak district, east of Kathmandu, which suffered greatly in Nepal’s worst quake in more than 80 years.
Video

Video Obama Praises Work of 3 Immigrant Journalists

President Barack Obama met with three immigrant journalists at the White House Friday to praise them for their work ahead of World Press Freedom Day, May 3. In attendance: Dieu Cay (his pen name) a blogger from Vietnam recently released from prison; Lily Mengesha from Ethiopia who was harassed and detained for exposing the marrying off of young girls as child brides, and Fatima Tlisova, an ethnic Circassian from the North Caucasus region of Russia, who works for VOA's Russian Service.
Video

Video Middle East Atheist Channel Defies Taboo

In Egypt, a deeply religious country in a deeply religious region, atheism is not only taboo, it is dangerous. It is sometimes even criminal to publicly declare nonbelief. Despite the danger, one group of activists is pushing back with a new online channel that defends the right not to believe. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Nepal Quake Survivors Tell Their Stories

Against all hope, rescuers have found a few more survivors of the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal last Saturday. Mountain climbers and hikers trapped in remote places also have been airlifted to safety, and aid is finally reaching people in the areas closest to the quake's epicenter. Survivors and rescuers are now recounting their experience. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Lessons for Germany, Europe Remain on Anniversary of WWII's End

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II will be marked May 8-9 in all European countries except Germany, which lost the war. How is the war viewed there, and what impact is it still having? From Berlin, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video Nepal Town Destroyed By Quake Counts Itself Lucky

Foreign search teams on Wednesday began reaching some of the communities outside Kathmandu that suffered worse damage than Nepal’s capital from last Saturday’s massive earthquake. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman is in Sankhu - a town of about 10,000 people - where there is relief the death toll is not higher despite widespread destruction.
Video

Video Somali Hotel Chain Owner Strives to Make a Difference

Many in the Somali diaspora are returning home to make a new life despite the continuing risks. Since 2011 when a military campaign against Al-Shabab militants began making progress, members of the diaspora community have come back to open hospitals, schools, hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Abdulaziz Billow in Mogadishu profiles the owner of a chain of hotels and restaurants who is helping to bring change to the once-deadly Somali capital.
Video

Video Child Migrants Cross Mediterranean Alone, Face Unknown Future

Among the thousands of migrants making the deadly journey by boat to Europe, there are unaccompanied girls and boys. Some have been sent by relatives to earn money; others are orphaned or fleeing war. From a shelter for young migrants in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.

Poll: Baltimore Police Charged

Poll archive

VOA Blogs