President Obama was rejected by not one, not two, but three golf courses in the New York City area during the recent Labor Day holiday weekend. Could anyone in their wildest imagination envision a sitting U.S. president being booted from a golf course or any other venue before he even got there? Golf-course owners gave the lame excuse that trying to accommodate Obama would be a crowd and security nightmare and presumably would eat into their business by shooing away other golfers during the busy holiday weekend. They noted that other notables, even kings (most recently the king of Morocco), have also been denied access to their links.
That's undoubtedly true. But Obama is not just any notable, let alone a foreign king. He's the president of the United States of America. Their excuse for shunning him was as good as any, since what else could they say? "We don't want Obama, because we don't like his politics or, more honestly, him"? The more cynical among us saw in their insulting excuses for rejecting the president the hidden hand of serial Obama vilifier Donald Trump, who owns one of the clubs in question.
But the truth is far deeper than that, and one hint of that is found in a cursory look at recent polls that show that Obama's approval ratings have plunged even lower than George W. Bush's, and his were worse than terrible. This rating low tells us much about the six-year drumbeat assault on Obama by the GOP: It has more than paid off in that it has forced Obama to put immigration reform on hold and push a very questionable and potentially disastrous military plunge into the ISIS crisis in Iraq and the Syrian civil war. And even more shamefully, a slew of Democratic Senate incumbents have flatly told him that they don't want him to show his face anywhere near them on the campaign trail, all because, despite all the evidence to the contrary, the GOP has finally sold a majority on the laughable notion that Obama is a weak, flawed, failed leader. However, there's much more to explain Obama's turn away from the links.
Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan were at times hounded, called names, and even heckled. But with Obama the pattern and sheer number of times he's been publicly reviled tops anything any former president has ever received. Take the heckling: Obama has been heckled at least a dozen times during his tenure. The topper was the infamous "You lie!" exclamation from Rep. Joe Wilson (R-South Carolina) during Obama's 2009 State of the Union address.
This pattern of public vilification and insult of Obama was set, almost from the start of his time in the White House, by the tea party, with its incessant marches and rallies that routinely feature the vilest, most demeaning and borderline racist depictions of him. The relentless public disrespect of Obama also stems from the even more insidious pattern of pure hate and harangue that spews forth against him from the parade of websites, bloggers, talk-show jocks and more than a few GOP officials with assorted borderline-racist digs and taunts. On only the rarest of rare occasions have GOP leaders issued any public rebuke of the abusive street-side depictions and the torrent of verbal broadsides against Obama.
There has not been a moment that has gone by that top GOP congressional leaders have not called Obama out on some issue. The framing of their criticism has not been polite or gentlemanly or exhibited the traditional courtesy and respect for the office of the presidency. This has done much to create a climate of distrust and vilification that has made it near-legitimate, even expected, to ridicule Obama. The GOP's official ridicule of him has taken many forms, all mean-spirited and petty rather than the customary expression of opposition that clashing political parties and their leaders show toward each other's policies. This subtle and overt interplay of race, Obama's popularity and the temptation of a possible 15 seconds of fame has become an irresistible and combustible mix.
Obama has, for the most part, refused to hit back. Attorney General Eric Holder has been pretty much the point person for firing back at the professional Obama bashers and calling the vilification of him exactly what it is: naked, raw, and spiteful race baiting. Of course, Holder has taken a bruising for it. He has been ruthlessly baited and hauled before countless GOP-controlled House committees and slandered as everything from incompetent to a liar and crook.
It doesn't much matter, then, whether Trump had a hand in blowing off Obama from his golf outing or not. The pattern of disrespect and denigration of Obama has been long set in stone. The golf snub is just the latest incident to fit the pattern and is therefore much more than a case of poor timing.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of Keepin' It Real With Al Sharpton, Rev. Al Sharpton's radio show. He is the author of How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge. He is a contributing writer at New America Media. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour, heard weekly on the nationally broadcast Hutchinson Newsmaker Network.