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

US Gives Malaysia Questionable Upgrade in Human Trafficking Ranks

Malaysia’s upgrade seen as removing barrier to country’s participation in the US-led 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership More

Turkey, US Try to Establish Buffer Despite Differences

Coalition airstrikes in proposed zone would aim to drive out Islamic extremists, allowing targeted area to come under sway of anti-Assad rebels More

Video US: Millions Exploited by Vast Fortunes of Human Trafficking

State Department's annual report calls exploitation 'modern slavery,' brutalizing girls, women into prostitution and forcing men, women and children into low-wage jobs across the globe 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.
US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Wini
X
July 28, 2015 12:21 AM
The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs