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 Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines 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.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid