What did President Obama get for Father's Day?

There’s no word yet on whether Sasha and Malia got him any new ties. But President Obama did get to play a round of golf and released a new Father's Day campaign video.

Paul Beaty/AP
President Barack Obama waves while boarding Air Force One before leaving O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, June 17.

What did President Obama get for Father’s Day? Well, we know he received two things at least: dispensation from Michelle to play a round of golf, and a new Father’s Day campaign video. There’s no word yet on whether Sasha and Malia got him any new ties.

As to the tour around the links, it occurred at Beverly Country Club in Chicago. The Obamas had traveled home to attend the wedding of a daughter of a family friend.

“Obama played 18 holes – his usual. His foursome included pals Marty Nesbitt, Eric Whitaker and director of advance Marvin Nicholson,” wrote Chicago Sun-Times political columnist Lynn Sweet on her blog.

The round of golf was the 100th of his presidency, according to CBS News correspondent Mark Knoller, the indispensable national chronicler of presidential activities.

“Pres Obama has played golf 47 times at Joint Base Andrews, 21 at Ft Belvoir, once at Army-Navy, 17 on Martha’s Vineyard & 13 in Hawaii,” tweeted Mr. Knoller on Sunday.

As Knoller noted, Mr. Obama has said golf helps him relax and gets him outdoors. He’s far from the only US chief executive to feel this way, of course – Bill Clinton golfed. George H.W. Bush perfected “speed golf,” leaving reporters in his dust. Dwight D. Eisenhower left cleat marks from his golf shoes in the floor of the Oval Office.

But Knoller got a fair number of negative comments on his report, to the point where he felt compelled to tweet back, “It’s just a game of golf. Why are critics so angry and supporters so defensive? Encountered same on GWBush visits to ranch.”

Well, yes, but in the midst of an election campaign, both sides will seize upon any activities of their opponents that they feel symbolize why they should lose. To Republicans, “golf” means “out of touch,” in this context. Just like “Romney dressage horse” means “out of touch” to Democrats.

Thus the conservative website RedState put up a sarcastic salute to Obama for his 100th golf round. Maybe he is losing so many balls he will have to buy new ones, boosting the golf ball industry, writes contributor Dan Spencer.

“Maybe golf has been Obama’s secret economic plan all along. Who knew?” Mr. Spencer writes.

Personally, we found the Father’s Day video more politically revealing than Obama’s decision to club a small ball with a stick. It’s slick, more than three minutes long, and organized as a dad’s day message from first lady Michelle Obama.

In it, Mrs. Obama praises her husband’s parenting skills. She says that he’s successful at giving Sasha and Malia the kind of stability and continuity he didn’t have as a child, because of his absent father.

“I don’t think he’s missed a parent-teacher conference their entire lives,” Mrs. Obama says.

What we think is interesting here is that the video centers on the first lady’s words. She’s posted it on her Facebook page and on her new Pinterest account.

As we’ve noted before, Michelle’s favorability ratings are much higher than her husband’s. Plus, focus-group results have indicated that female voters in particular respond warmly to Mrs. Obama and her depiction of the White House as a family endeavor. That’s a key demographic for Obama: He needs to keep his lead over Mitt Romney among women to offset weakness among white working-class males.

Mr. Romney’s Father’s Day video, in contrast, was centered on comments from his sons, not wife Ann Romney. They stress their father’s human, jokester side. It’s all about Mitt Romney the unstiff.

“He was a goofball. He loved to horse around,” says son Tagg in the video.

This addresses a Romney electoral need: He needs to humanize himself, and appear more empathetic, to counter Obama’s advantage in favorability numbers.

Yes, Father’s Day can be political. Get used to it. We can’t wait for the dueling July 4th campaign messages.

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