Conflict & Justice

Earthquake no match for Martha's Vineyard, but Hurricane Irene?


US President Barack Obama (2nd L) putts on the first green at Farm Neck Golf Course in Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts, August 23, 2011, with Vernon Jordan (L), White House Trip Director Marvin Nicholson (2nd R) and Eric Whitaker (R).


Jim Watson

President Barack Obama was said to have continued golfing on Martha's Vineyard when the great East Coast earthquake of 2011 struck, but hurricanes — historically at least — are a different matter.

And did someone say Muammar al-Gaddafi?

Despite criticism before he left Washington D.C. for his Massachusetts summer getaway that "he should not be taking a luxurious vacation while the economy is in turmoil, the president has maintained his planned schedule," ABC reports.

He has enjoyed golf, trips to the beach with his family and shopping.

The Associated Press even published a photo of the president taking a call on the golf course within the hour after Tuesday's 5.8-magnitude earthquake hit, the Washington Post reports.

The paper quotes Washington Times opinion page editor Emily Miller on Twitter:

"Obama is still playing golf. Not even an act of God can stop him from getting at least 9 holes in today."

On Tuesday, Obama apparently brushed off the earthquake that, among other things, knocked over outdoor furniture in Virginia and closed the Washington Monument indefinitely, but found himself keeping track of Hurricane Irene.

(GlobalPost reports: Earthquake closes Washington Monument indefinitely)

Which is not to say he wasn't taking things seriously: ABC, citing Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest, reports that "the quake hit at 1:51 p.m. eastern time and the president, while on [Farm Neck Golf Course], had a conference call an hour later." 

Obama was told that there were "no initial reports of major infrastructure damage, including at airports and nuclear facilities and that there were currently no requests for assistance."

Leading to the inevitable question: did Obama make par?

According to the Telegraph's golfing writer, the president certainly seemed a little put off his game, missing an easy putt on the first hole, though — to be fair — the Fifth Estate was hovering.

As Kenneth T. Walsh writes in the US News and World Report:

Of course, he wants to avoid what happened to George W. Bush while he was on vacation at his Texas ranch in 2005. Bush didn't seem focused on Hurricane Katrina and it made him look uncaring and inept.

The moment — immortalized in Michael Moore's film "Fahrenheit 911" — would have put Tiger Woods off his game, let alone any subsequent White House occupant who's job it is to care about the nation's misfortunes.

Irene, meantime, was upgraded to Category 3 hurricane on Wednesday, and is expected to hit the United States in the next few days, possibly taking a swipe at New England — where Martha's Vineyard is situated.

Surely the right time for a president to be on his game... as it were.