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WashPost Column: Obama's Tee-Off Time a 'Symbol of Detachment'

Image: WashPost Column: Obama's Tee-Off Time a 'Symbol of Detachment' President Barack Obama lines up his putt while playing a round of golf at Farm Neck Golf Club on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters/Landov)

Tuesday, 26 Aug 2014 12:17 PM

By Drew MacKenzie

President Barack Obama was "tone deaf" to criticism of his leadership while making his golfing tee-off time "a symbol of detachment" from his detractors, Michael Gerson wrote in a column in The Washington Post.

Gerson suggests that Obama has surrounded himself with sycophants at the White House who are unwilling to tell him when he's about the make a major blunder, such as hitting the links right after giving a somber speech addressing the beheading of American journalist James Foley.

Gerson wrote Obama is entitled to take a vacation on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts and play some golf, and the public "would be selfish and shortsighted" to criticize him for taking a vital break from the pressures of the presidency.

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"It is the immediate juxtaposition of beheading and golfing that should have raised questions," he wrote.

"Those questions would have been so obvious to any reasonably competent deputy press secretary that the incident raises further issues: Is there really no one on the White House staff with the standing to confront Obama when he is about to make a self-evident mistake? Is he surrounded by sycophancy? Or has re-election liberated Obama from all considerations of symbolism or appropriateness?"

He continued, "He appears to be telling the media, his political critics and the world: You can criticize me, vilify me, challenge me; but you are powerless, at least, to change my tee time. It shows resilience. Yet there is a fine line between not giving an inch and not giving a damn."

Gerson said that as Obama's failures have multiplied he seems "disconnected and tone deaf," which has become of particular concern as he faces "the defining crisis" of his presidency — the potential global threat from the Islamic State terror organization, which has captured vast parts of Iraq and Syria.

"The traits and views that aided his political rise — an emotional and geopolitical disengagement — are not sufficient to the moment. Even some of his traditional supporters have begun to fear that the president's golfing has become not merely a respite but a symbol of detachment," Gerson wrote.

"For years, Obama has reacted to events in the Middle East, and lately been at their mercy. Now he must provide some assurance that he is shaping events with a strategy that culminates in the end of the Islamic State."

Gerson, a nationally syndicated columnist, concluded, "As a matter of policy, this will require recognition that Iraq and Syria are one theater in a long-term struggle that does not fade when we ignore it. As a matter of leadership, it will require a certain trumpet, for a change."

The White House has scoffed at allegations that Obama is disconnected or tone deaf, The Hill reported, with his defenders saying that suggestions the president has checked out is a media myth that makes a good headline.

"This is a guy who reads 10 letters a day simply to keep in touch with the American people," a former senior administration official told The Hill. "He spends all his time thinking about the economy and improving lives of the American people. He's constantly in touch." The Hill did not identify the official.

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