(before de Mello)
(after de Mello)
President Bush said yesterday that he gave up golfing in 2003 “in solidarity” with the families of soldiers who were dying in Iraq, concluding that it was “just not worth it anymore” to play the sport in a time of war.
“I don’t want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the commander in chief playing golf,” Bush said in a White House interview with the Politico. “I feel I owe it to the families to be as — to be in solidarity as best as I can with them. And I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal.”
— Bush Says He’s Not A Golfer In Wartime (WAPO – May 14, 2008)
In light of the disclosure above, I think most people will look at this White House shot from May 5, 2007 and simply make the argument that Bush views golf as a sport and cycling as physical fitness. That was, after all, the circumstance of this White House pic.
Knowing Bush, however, and the avid biker he’s become (1, 2), I think the reason he has forsaken golf is not because he feels it’s inappropriate so much as because of the immediate shame he felt having been caught on the golf course at the wrong moment.
As WAPO goes on:
Bush said he decided to stop playing golf on Aug. 19, 2003, when a truck bomb in Baghdad killed U.N. special representative Sergio Vieira de Mello and more than a dozen others.
He said he received word of the attack while playing golf during a stay at the family ranch near Crawford, Tex. Press reports at the time indicate he took the call from Condoleezza Rice, then his national security adviser.
“They pulled me off the golf course, and I said it’s just not worth it anymore to do,” Bush said in yesterday’s interview.
Just like he never felt any need for collective sacrifice, it is just not in Bush’s make-up to have made this decision in the broader context of “the appropriate behavior to set in wartime.” (If that was the case, then how would one explain the multitude of examples — such as this one or this one — where Bush, in the most public of wartime settings, has acted like a complete goof ball?)
No, being the concrete and stubborn guy he is, there just is not much difference in Bush’s cocky pre-war, adolescent manner and the wartime manner he brings to everything, including replacement forms of recreation, such as fishing and biking. It’s the same smirky smirk.
Perhaps the jolt he received actually broke through Dubya’s otherwise impermeable wall of denial. Between truly examining his larger, gung-ho attitude toward the war, however, and adopting the gesture (just between him and himself) of jettisoning his golf game, I’m sure the golf wasn’t that hard to cut loose.
(image 1: J. Scott Applewhite — AP via WAPO. image 2: Joyce Boghosian/White House. May 5, 2007. Beltsville, Md. whitehouse.gov)