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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 11 August 2017 > SLACKER IN CHIEF


WHERE’S DONALD? Most weekends, Trump flees the White House like a factory worker screaming “TGIF!”

The week that began on August 8, 2011, found President Barack Obama in the midst of what The New York Times would call “the most dismal stretch of his presidency.”

Days before, Congress had finally managed to strike a deal on raising the debt ceiling, thus averting a disastrous default on the national debt. But the process had been long and hideous, like an ugly domestic argument waged in front of the neighbors. On the 5th, a Friday, Standard & Poor’s had handed the United States its first ever credit-rating downgrade, citing a lack of “predictability of American policymaking and political nstitutions.”

Obama tried to calm Americans with a speech that Monday, in which he declared the nation’s economic woes were “eminently solvable.” The financial markets disagreed, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropping 635 points that day. There was talk of a double-dip recession. And there was anger at Obama, whose approval rating drop to 40 percent, the lowest yet of his presidency. Seeking a respite, Obama went golfing that Saturday, ahead of an “economic bus tour” of the Midwest.

The following Monday, the 15th, there came a tweet from Donald Trump, host of the popular Apprentice franchise. He’d recently become a hero of the right for insisting Obama may have been born a Muslim and outside the United States. It was not his first tweet needling Obama, but it was the first on a subject to which Trump would return time and again: the president’s love of golf. “@BarackObama played golf yesterday,” Trump’s tweet announced. “Now he heads to a 10 day vacation in Martha’s Vineyard. Nice work ethic.” (Obama had actually played golf two days before, and his vacation wasn’t until week’s end.)

Trump pounded this plaint for the next five years, even as the economy improved, the Affordable Care Act provided health care to millions and the war in Afghanistan came to an end. Every time Obama picked up a golf club, it was incontrovertible proof that he was incapable of feeling (or addressing) the pain of ordinary Americans. Obama, as Trump put it in a tweet in 2011, “plays golf to escape work while America goes down the drain.” His last tweet on the subject came in the summer of 2016, when Trump was already the Republican nominee for president.

Were he to reach the White House, Trump wouldn’t make the same mistake for which he’d been lambasting Obama since 2011. “I’m going to be working for you,” he told supporters in August 2016. “I’m not going to have time to go play golf.”

Now that he’s president, Trump frequently departs the White House and spends the weekend golfing at either his South Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, or his country club in the New Jersey suburbs, Bedminster. The promise he’d made a year before was discarded so quickly, you have to wonder if he even remembers making it. Politico did the legwork: George W. Bush didn’t golf for the first five months of his presidency, while Obama stayed away from his beloved links for four months following his inauguration. Trump held out for all of two weeks. He has visited a golf club on at least 40 days since taking office in January, according to the self-explanatory site Trump Golf Count, which estimates the forays have cost American taxpayers $55 million. Another Trump tracker, this one by The New York Times, finds that his visits to Trump-branded properties total 56 days, nearly a third of his time in office.

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