President Barack Obama had a story to tell about his long President’s Day weekend in Florida.
And he gave it to Golf World:
He was going to school on Tiger Woods.
The president’s radio silence during three days of golf at the Floridian National on the Sunshine State’s Treasure Coast spurred some discontent among the White House reporters trapped at a low-rent Holiday Inn Express several miles from the resort, denied any access or even viewings of the vacationing first duffer. Any comment about what he had learned from the master over the weekend may have been left for a brief off-the-record chat the president had with the press pool aboard Air Force One on the way home to Washington last night.
(This reporter’s own separate flight from a Florida vacation held in the air outside Washington for the “VIP flight” in the capital’s air space, but Bloomberg’s Margaret Talev was aboard the big plane for the 10-minute visit by the president, having trailed that news-less weekend.)
The press corps wasn’t advised of Obama’s meeting with Woods until Golf World’s Tim Rosaforte tweeted it from the resort at Palm City, Florid, owned by the owner of the Houston Astros, a big Obama campaign donor: “The President is arriving at The Floridian range. Awaiting is Tiger Woods and club owner Jim Crane. Historic day in golf. Their first round,” Rosaforte tweeted.
“After an eight-hour session with Butch Harmon on Saturday in which he played 27 holes and hit balls in the instructor’s golf studio, Obama was able to coordinate a round with Wood,” the Golf Digest.com staff reports. “The two were originally supposed to play at Woods’ home club, The Medalist GC some 30 minutes away in Hobe Sound, but eventually opted for The Floridian, where the President has been based all weekend.”
“Just to see the interaction between the two on the range was pretty neat,” the Digest quotes Harmon, who was on the tee, as saying. “The President said to Tiger, ‘The last tournament you played was fun to watch. It’s good to see you play well again.’ You could tell he meant it. It just wasn’t a throw it out compliment.”
For all the press-howling about the sequestered president — (Fox News’ Ed Henry, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, issued as statement over the weekend: `This is NOT about a trivial issue like a golf game – we don’t really care about the president’s score. What we care about is ACCESS to the president of the United States, whether it’s a Democrat or a Republican.”) — it’s not unusual for the White House to go dark over the weekend.
The president’s many golf games in the Washington area — with friends such as Eric Whitaker and staff — are generally off-limits to the press. Access of any kind to the president on weekends is rare, at home, on the greens and on the road.
The more salient question may involve the few press conferences that this president holds.
Politico today cites Martha Joynt Kumar, a University of Maryland professor who has made a career of studying White House interaction with the media, as reporting that Obama held just 107 meetings with the press — mostly in brief comments after photo opportunities and also at his infrequent news conferences. President George W. Bush had 355 encounters during his first term, by Kumar’s count.
This White House, like Bush’s, has gone to great lengths to go around the national media — except when it has an important story to plant in one of the biggest outlets — communicating instead with local media, and special media like Golf World.
This is a president who can go months without a press conference.
He seldom goes a weekend without golf.
The former fact is probably more relevant to public information than the latter.