So Obama Can't Bowl, So What?

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Is it even possible for a grown man to bowl a 37?...

Like presidents and would-be presidents who have come before, Mr. Obama had sought to assure voters he was just like them by attempting to play a game. Beginning with William Howard Taft, who was a comically bad golfer, and continuing through George W. Bush, who bruised his face after falling off his mountain bike, presidents and candidates have risked all self-respect in the relentless pursuit of sport. Along the way, they usually reveal something about their character.

Lyndon B. Johnson tried golf, reluctantly, after an aide persuaded him that he could use the links as a place to buttonhole recalcitrant senators. L.B.J. said, “One lesson you’d better learn if you want to be in politics is that you never get out on a golf course and beat the president.” Heeding that advice was nearly impossible, however, because L.B.J. routinely blasted 300 shots per round.

Jimmy Carter went fishing one evening in 1979. The Associated Press told it this way: “A ‘killer rabbit’ attacked President Carter on a recent trip to Plains, Ga., penetrating Secret Service security and forcing the chief executive to beat back the beast with a canoe paddle. The rabbit, which the president later guessed was fleeing in panic from some predator, actually swam toward a canoe from which Carter was fishing in a pond. It was hissing menacingly, its teeth flashing and nostrils flared, and making straight for the president.”

Mr. Carter escaped uninjured, but the same could not be said for his reputation. Two months after surviving the killer rabbit, the president made what came to be known as his “malaise speech,” in which he spoke about Americans’ “crisis of confidence.” A connection between those two events was never proved.

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