Ed Driscoll

'He’s not Jimmy Carter. He’s Tiger Woods'

Tom Maguire takes one for the team, and reads Thomas Friedman’s latest column so you don’t have to. Though if you did, you’d come across passages such as this:

Obama is smart, decent and tough, with exactly the right instincts about where the country needs to go. He has accomplished a lot more than he’s gotten credit for — with an opposition dedicated to making him fail. But lately he is seriously off his game. He’s not Jimmy Carter. He’s Tiger Woods — a natural who’s lost his swing. He has so many different swing thoughts in his head, so many people whispering in his ear about what the polls say and how he needs to position himself to get re-elected, that he has lost all his natural instincts for the game. He needs to get back to basics.

“My goodness — Obama is re-imagined as Tiger Woods (and then Kevin Costner) while Friedman recycles Dem talking points and offers absurd political advice,” Maguire writes:

Friedman delivers a Big Finish which takes us back to golf and Obama’s missing mojo.  Hang on:

Meanwhile, Mr. President, on a rainy day, rent the movie “Tin Cup.” There is a great scene where Dr. Molly Griswold is trying to help Roy “Tin Cup” McAvoy, the golf pro, rediscover his swing — and himself. She finally tells him: “Roy … don’t try to be cool or smooth or whatever; just be honest and take a risk. And you know what, whatever happens, if you act from the heart, you can’t make a mistake.”

Hmm.  As a metaphor for the Obama administration I prefer the scene where Obama – sorry, Roy McAvoy – smacks the ball into the water about fourteen times in a row, hoping for a better result each time.  Maybe the tee is at Gitmo.  Or the water hazard is the economy…

Along the way, Friedman proffers this advice to the president:

It’s crazy what’s happening in America today: We’re having an economic crisis and the politicians are having an election — and there is almost no overlap between the two. The president needs to bring them together. But that can only happen if he stops playing not to lose and goes for broke himself. Our problems are not insoluble. We need a Grand Bargain — where each side gives something on spending, taxes and new investments — and we’re on our way out of this.

Go for broke — gee, where have we heard that phrase before recently? Amazing how NBC, the WaPo and the NYT can all really move in unison at times, isn’t it? As Maguire responds:

Oh, brother.  Now the recycled Dem talking pointabout those intransigent Republicans and the collapse of the Boehner/Obama “Grand Bargain”:

Obama surprised everyone by broaching the idea during the debt negotiations of a “Grand Bargain” — roughly $3 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade and $1 trillion in tax increases — as a signal to the markets that we’re getting our fiscal house in order. It was absolutely the right idea — as long as it is coupled with investments in infrastructure, education and research — but House Speaker John Boehner could not deliver his Tea Party-led G.O.P. caucus.

Well, that is Team Obama’s spin.  Here in reality, Boehner agreed to $800 billion in tax hikes, the Gang of Six from the Senate put in a bid for for a higher number, so Obama backpedaled on his agreement and asked for $1.2 trillion in new revenue.  Boehner couldn’t deliver the Tea Party?  Obama couldn’t even deliver himself.

But does Friedman really want to use the Obama=Tiger Woods analogy? Because some enterprising blogger might just have a copy of this magazine on a shelf somewhere, drop it into the flatbed scanner, and OCR a few highlights of the text — which doesn’t appear to be online (fancy that). It’s a reminder of the infamous moment when both men were at the zeniths of their careers, before they each began crashing down to earth:

That’s the January 2010 issue of Golf Digest, which was first announced on the Web in late November of 2009, shortly before the Tiger Woods scandal broke. As I mentioned in a Silicon Graffiti video I did on the cover in early 2010, Woods’ peccadilloes permanently shattered his carefully built and rigorously-defended narrative. And by the time it broke, it transformed Golf Digest’s cover story, “10 Tips Obama Can Take From Tiger” — already a ludicrous premise — into a modernday camp classic. The Photoshopped cover illustration that Golf Digest created features Tiger Woods caddying for President Obama, but the real caddies are on the inside; Friedman and company remind readers that hack is not a term reserved exclusively for the fairways.

That issue also marks the end of Obama as a political superman (or God, if you’re Evan Thomas); it was all downhill for him afterwards; Scott Brown would capture “Ted Kennedy’s seat” in January of 2010, despite Obama campaigning for his opposition; the Tea Party would help the GOP retake Congress the following November, and Obama’s poll numbers have continued to drift continually southward, as the deficit and over-regulation engulfs any hope of an economic recovery.

But before the levee broke, Friedman offered advice to both Tiger and Obama. For the latter man, Friedman suggested:

[Tiger Woods demonstrates] “a level of intimidation so complete, I cannot think of a parallel in any other sport. It is earned not just by winning, but by demeanor: polite, gentlemanly toward opponents, though totally focused on doing everything to win all the time.

President Obama could use some of that. It is not that he lacks toughness. But he is not yet intimidating. You have to win some diplomatic or political “majors” to have that authority. Winning passage of universal health care? That is like winning a Masters and a U.S. Open in the same year. Taking out Osama bin Laden? Another huge victory.

In politics, success breeds authority, and authority breeds more success. Until Obama earns that Tiger-like aura of intimidation, though, he will get tested—as much by Democrats as by Republicans. Once those points go up on the board, he will be playing like a guy with-19 majors, and Oval Office visitors will be a little less willing to say “no.”

Ironically, Obama scored both of the items listed above, but they ended up being as owned-goals, to mix sports metaphors. ObamaCare has so frightened and confused the business world, it’s left them virtually paralyzed, afraid to hire or expand due to the enormous regulatory uncertainty. And ask George H.W. Bush how neutralizing a famous Middle East terrorist helped make a second term a slam-dunk. The right understands that killing OBL was accomplished via the systems and intelligence gathering that the previous administration put into place — which Obama and the media derided all the way. A third of the left, including both one actor turned would be politician, and one of Obama’s former “czars,” think that Osama had nothing to do with 9/11.

For Woods, Friedman offered this advice as to what the legendary golfer could learn from the president:

Tiger has started intimidating everyone these days: opponents, officials, even fans. [Not to mention the media — Ed] He is probably the greatest golfer of all time. And when I think of the pres­sures he faces in public life, and how well he generally comports himself, I feel like this is just nitpicking. He is a great credit to his sport and to his parents. But nitpicking comes with being president. And Tiger is the president of golf. He represents himself, and the game, and the hopes of millions of people. It’s a fine line—but I am sure that a day hanging with Obama, seeing how he handles all those pressures, would put Tiger on the right side of it.

Because the president has certainly been grace under pressure in recent weeks.

In retrospect, perhaps the most prescient suggestion for Obama in the now anti-classic issue of Golf Digest came from Joe Queenan, on “The Danger of Looking Ridiculous,” perhaps intuitively sensing the train wreck to come:

By all accounts, President Obama loves golf but it does not love him back. To date, he has not let the public see much of him in action on the course. Tiger would probably tell him to keep it that way. Tiger doesn’t appear on “Dancing With the Stars.” Tiger doesn’t sing in public. Tiger doesn’t appear on talk shows with Janeane Garofalo. Tiger never does anything that would make him look ridiculous. The President of the United States needs to do the same. After all, Jimmy Carter never recovered from that incident with the killer rabbit. Thomas Dewey’s loss to Harry Truman in the 1948 election might have been because Dewey was somehow cajoled by supporters into donning a pirate’s hat.

Obama seems to get all this. Most Americans do not want to see the president fail. They certainly don’t want to see him fall at golf. For the sake of all of us — lest our enemies use the president’s lack of links prowess against him — Obama should keep his game far, far away from the eyes of prying photographers. What we can’t see can’t hurt us. Much less him.

The best advice the president never took.