Does anyone really care about presidential golf (or hypocrisy)?
Golf, the author Malcolm Gladwell once declared on an episode of his popular podcast, is “crack cocaine for old white guys.” And like many old white guys, President Trump appears to have a bit of a golf addiction.
By the end of 2017, Trump had played golf 75 times since taking office in January, according to trumpgolfcount.com, which keeps a running tally of the president’s club visits (87) and time on the links.
Trump is often secretive about his golf habit, but counting only rounds that were confirmed or likely, he’s averaging about six golf outings per month. That’s quite a bit more than the average weekend duffer, who plays about 46 rounds a year, according to a 2009 Golf Magazine survey. It’s easy enough to qualify him as “avid” (25 or more rounds).
Asked about the president’s golfing last week , White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump’s time on the course was in service of “developing deeper and better relationships with members of Congress.”
But the hypocrisy is obvious. Trump criticized his predecessor relentlessly for golfing while America was allegedly not great, tweeting more than two dozen times about Barack Obama’s time on the links. Now president himself, Trump golfs twice as much.
“Can you believe that, with all of the problems and difficulties facing the U.S., President Obama spent the day playing golf. Worse than Carter,” Trump tweeted in October 2014, sideswiping poor Jimmy Carter for good measure.
If there’s one thing people on both ends of the political spectrum have in common, it’s a shared love of pointing out hypocrisy. Whether it’s environmental advocate Al Gore’s $30,000 utility bill or Clinton critic Newt Gingrich’s mistresses, demonstrating the inconsistency between a political opponent’s words and deeds is in almost everyone’s playbook.
But while being branded a hypocrite may discredit Gore and Gingrich personally, it doesn’t do anything to prove that global warming is fake or “family values” aren’t valuable. Debunking “An Inconvenient Truth” doesn’t depend at all on slagging the soothsayer. And in politics, hypocrisy is so prevalent that it’s nearly worthless as currency.
Another problem with wielding the hammer of hypocrisy to win a political argument — it’s actually an undergraduate-level logical fallacy known as tu quoque — is that you can come pretty close to admitting the underlying premise of the person you’re arguing against. Mocking Trump’s golf addiction is easy, but Obama also played 27 times at the same point in his presidency, according to obamagolfcounter.com, a website that tracked Obama’s golf outings.
If Trump’s golfing while President is a problem, then 27 rounds probably was also. You can’t reasonably torch Trump for his golfing without conceding that Obama was in the wrong, too, even though Trump is outdoing Obama on the links by a good margin. That both presidents have strikingly similar websites devoted to cataloging their golf would seem to prove that point.
Trump himself appears somewhat sensitive about his golf habit. On Wednesday, a white box truck was positioned to block the media’s view of the president playing on his course in West Palm Beach. Nobody would say who commissioned the truck, which moved to stay between the cameras and the president, but it wasn’t the Secret Service, according to CNN.
But for all our hypocrisy policing, it’s not at all clear that Golfing While President is a problem. Particularly in the specific case, it might even be good.
After all, we’re very unlikely to launch a nuclear strike on North Korea while Trump is making the turn at Bedminster. If the president wants to wake up, fire off a few semi-coherent tweets about slights both real and imagined, and then hit the links, then by all means, play 36.
He can come home, have an overcooked steak, watch a little Fox News, and call it a night, and if he can knock three strokes off his handicap by November 2020, we all just might survive this thing.