Many GOP critics say President Barack Obama should halt his golf games as the federal government weathers mandatory spending cuts, but one former Republican is taking the opposite tack, suggesting Obama golf more.
But there's one important caveat to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's advice: The foursomes can't be made up only of friends.
"I find it fascinating, people criticize him for taking people to dinner -- he should be doing that every night. They criticize him for going and playing golf with people who he's got to deal with. He should be doing that every weekend. You always can work better with somebody that you have a chance to build a social relationship with," Bloomberg -- who ran as a Republican in 2002 but later switched his party to "independent" -- said on CBS's "Face the Nation." Bloomberg endorsed Obama in 2012's presidential campaign.
His remarks come as some Republicans cry foul over the expense of Obama's golf games in a time of government austerity -- though the president has yet to play a round since the automatic spending cuts took effect March 1. Some in the GOP have chafed at the symbolism of the White House canceling tours, arguing the money spent on Secret Service protection for a presidential golf outing would be better spent on keeping the White House open to the public.
"The president will use up more Secret Service time guarding him while he golfs than it would take to keep the White House tours open all year," Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, said Friday on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer."
Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, submitted legislation which would make it illegal for Obama to use federal funds for commuting to and from golf outings until the White House resumes tours. Reopening the White House for tours would only cost "one or two golf trips less" for Obama, he argued.
By Bloomberg's estimation, the cost of Obama's golf trips would be well worth it for taxpayers if they result in important compromises on the nation's toughest issues. Yet for that to happen, Obama would have to invite his opponents for a round, rather than the usual coterie of friends and staffers with whom he normally tees off.
In 2011, he played a much-hyped round of golf with House Speaker John Boehner and John Kasich, Ohio's Republican governor. But if the budget gridlock currently ailing Washington is any indication, that game didn't yield much in terms of compromise.
It remains to be seen if Obama's latest "charm offensive" will include rounds of golf with his political rivals. Thus far it's been centered on meals: dinner with a dozen Republican senators at a hotel in Washington on Wednesday, and lunch at the White House with Rep. Paul Ryan on Thursday. Both meals came at Obama's invitation. Later this week he'll meet with the full GOP contingents in both the House and Senate, along with the Democratic caucuses in both chambers.
The moves reflect a shift for the president, who has been criticized for not cultivating social relationships with members of Congress.