WASHINGTON — President Obama was proud and House Speaker John Boehner was exhilarated.
No, this wasn’t a celebration of some big White House-Congress deal on the national debt. Just a couple of weekend golfers hitting the links on a sunny Saturday.
Obama brought Boehner, an Ohio Republican, to his home course for their much-anticipated round, the first time the political rivals and avid golfers have played together.
The four-hour outing came amid heightened tensions between the White House and Capitol Hill over deficit reduction negotiations and the US military’s involvement in Libya. But aides to both Obama and Boehner said their time on the course was more about stroking putts than striking deals.
The president and the speaker were joined by Vice President Joe Biden and Ohio’s Republican governor, John Kasich, for a 9:30 a.m. tee time at the course at Joint Base Andrews, where the president is a frequent weekend golfer.
The White House made a rare exception and allowed the press to watch Obama and his playing partners finish the first hole, a par five.
Biden was cool under pressure, sinking a 15- to 20-foot putt.
“Did you all catch that?’’ Obama shouted to reporters.
The president, dressed in dark pants, a white polo shirt and a baseball cap, putted for par, tapping home a short shot after missing a 12-footer.
Kasich, a former congressman, missed a long 30-footer, then tapped in for par. Boehner, one of the best golfers in Congress, gave a hearty “Oh yeah!’’ after draining a short putt.
Obama, who is not in Boehner’s links league, patted the speaker on the back as they headed toward the second hole, the president driving their cart.
While Obama is an avid golfer, he rarely plays with anyone outside of his small cadre of close aides. His rounds run long, usually well over five hours, and those close to the president say he revels in the chance to get out of the spotlight.
Obama’s penchant for privacy extends to his social life. He surrounds himself with a tight inner circle of family and friends, and rarely socializing with other politicians in Washington.
Yesterday’s golf outing was one of the first times Obama and Boehner have gotten together for anything other than a policy meeting.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said early last week that the outing was “meant to be an opportunity for the speaker and the president, as well as the vice president and Ohio governor, to have a conversation, to socialize in a way that so rarely happens in Washington.’’
Being father is challenging and rewarding, Obama says
WASHINGTON — President Obama says being a father is sometimes his hardest job, but also the most rewarding.
Just ahead of Father’s Day, the president devoted his radio and Internet address yesterday to fatherhood. He talked about growing up without a father, his own failings as a father, and the values he hopes to teach his daughters Malia, 12, and Sasha, 10. He described the responsibilities that all fathers have to their children and said his administration is trying to help during tough economic times and long deployments for US troops.
The president spoke of helping to coach Sasha’s basketball team. “In the end, that’s what being a parent is all about — those precious moments with our children that fill us with pride and excitement for their future; the chances we have to set an example or offer a piece of advice; the opportunities to just be there and show them that we love them.’’
Obama was raised largely by his grandparents in Hawaii after his father left when Obama was very young. “I felt his absence. And I wonder what my life would have been like had he been a greater presence,’’ the president said.
The president said he has learned that what children need most is their parents’ time and a structure that instills self-discipline and responsibility, noting that even in the White House, Malia and Sasha do their chores and walk the dog.
“Above all, children need our unconditional love,’’ the president said, “whether they succeed or make mistakes; when life is easy and when life is tough.’’
Republicans used their weekly address to call for progress on pacts to expand trade with South Korea, Panama, and Colombia.
The Obama administration wants lawmakers to expand retraining assistance for American workers who lose their jobs because of foreign competition.