White House dismisses critics, defends Obama's golf outings during Gulf crisis

The White House is dismissing criticism that President Barack Obama shouldn’t play golf during the Gulf oil spill.

White House spokesman Bill Burton on Monday said the president deserves some time to relax, and he doesn’t “think that there’s a person in this country that doesn’t think that their president ought to have a little time to clear his mind.”

Obama has been on the links frequently since moving into the White House. Over the weekend, Obama played the 39th round of golf of his presidency, according to reports.

Obama plays golf in Asheville, N.C., on April 23, 2010.White House reporters joke among themselves about who might get stuck with weekend pool duty, which seems more likely than not to include a few hours sitting at the food court near either Andrews Air Force Base or Fort Belvoir while Obama hits the links.

But Burton dismissed Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele’s criticism that Obama should stay away from golfing.
Speaking at the daily White House briefing, Burton said Obama needs some time to himself after dealing with the business of his office.

In making his point, Burton listed the accomplishments that the White House believes Obama made last week.

“And so after a week where the president was taking on the oil spill, got an historic agreement with BP to put aside $20 billion to pay claims; after a day on Friday when he strengthened lobby and ethics rules in the White House; after going to Ohio to talk about the economy and see the progress that’s being made and some of those stimulus projects that are happening around the country — all the different issues that the president is dealing with, I think that a little time to himself on Father’s Day weekend probably does us all good as American citizens that our president is taking that time,” Burton said.

Steele brought the president’s golf game into sharper political focus over the weekend with a statement comparing Obama’s round of golf to BP CEO Tony Hayward’s weekend decision to watch a yacht race.

“While it is fitting and appropriate to look at the yachting activities of the BP CEO with incredulity, it is equally incredible that President Obama finds himself on yet another golf course as oil continues to spew into the Gulf,” Steele said. “Until this problem is fixed, no more golf outings, no more baseball games, no more Beatle concerts, Mr. President. The stakes are too high for President Obama’s lackadaisical approach to both his responsibilities and the challenges we face.”

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Obama went to a Washington Nationals game on Friday, and hosted a concert by Paul McCartney less than three weeks ago.

Steele’s criticism of Obama’s golfing followed White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s criticism of Hayward’s yacht trip.

Former President George W. Bush publicly gave up the game of golf while in office, saying he didn’t think it was appropriate that he keep playing while troops were fighting in Iraq.

This story was updated at 7:20 p.m.