Did Obama's Golf Diplomacy Work? Let's Go to the Photo Op!

The Atlantic
Did Obama's Golf Diplomacy Work? Let's Go to the Photo Op!
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Did Obama's Golf Diplomacy Work? Let's Go to the Photo Op!

White Houe Press Secretary Jay Carney said on Monday that President Obama was golfing with three senators to "test the theory that this kind of engagement can produce the kind of results that everybody... wants to see." It was yet another sign that the White House hasn't completely bought into the idea that Obama could get Congress to pass the stuff he wants if he just hung out with them more, while buying in fully to the idea that people might stop suggesting the tactic if he bothers trying it. So far, the results of Obama's dinner-and-golf diplomacy have been mixed. Did Obama's golfing with Georgia Republican Saxby Chambliss, Colorado Democrat Mark Udall, and Tennessee Republican Bob Corker go any better? Well, since it was largely one big photo-op for the political press corps, let's pay very, very close attention to the resulting photos and analyze their faces for clues.

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But first, some history. In March, Obama had a dozen Republican senators over for dinner. All but two voted to filibuster a bill that would have required background checks for all gun purchases. Texas Sen. Tom Coburn had even given the dinner a thumbs up. When Obama had 20 female senators over to chat in April, some were not happy with the format. The senators complained they got to talk too much. "That took up our entire two hours, to go around the table," Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski told The Washington Post. "It was not the kind of warm banter that can go back and forth." But Murkowski did like that when she asked Obama to take her shoes off, he said "Absolutely!"

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And of course, the most famously unsuccessful golf diplomacy attempt for Obama was in June 2011, when he and House Speaker John Boehner golfed on the same team, yet did not prevent a crisis over raising the debt limit later that summer.

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But there were some differences between then and now that could be crucial, if the grand dinner diplomacy dinner is true. In 2011, sure, Obama patted Boehner on the back affectionately...

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(Photo via Associated Press​.)

... but their faces showed that this sport of male bonding had not brought them together.

Closeup:

(Photo via Associated Press​.)

This is not just cherry picking the available photos. Other photos from that day were equally unhappy.

(Photo via Associated Press​.)

So, that brings us to Monday and the POTUS-and-Senators foursome. Here's Obama with Corker.

Closeup, they look pretty intense, but in a sports way.

(Photos via Associated Press​.)

Here, Udall shows his intense sports face, while Corker and Obama chat.

Closeup, we see it wasn't 100 percent laughs on Monday:

(Photo via Associated Press.)

Here it looks like Chambliss said something very charming to Obama.

They're happier here:

(Photos via Reuters.)

And here they look like best pals:

(Photos via Reuters.)

It's almost as if Corker is saying, "On second thought, your second-term agenda sounds pretty reasonable?" But let's not bet on it.

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