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 Analysts: Beijing Parade a 'Bazaar' of Stolen Technology

Show commemorating victory over Japan in World War II involved long, medium and short range missiles, a range of tanks and 200 fighter aircraft More

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf 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.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs