(The Root) — A lot has been made of President Obama’s recent golf session with Tiger Woods. More specifically, a lot has been made of the fact that the press was excluded from the outing. While the president has some surprising defenders on this, among them Fox News Channel’s Charles Krauthammer and, more tepidly, Bill O’Reilly, other members of the media believe that the episode is indicative of a wider problem with how the Obama White House controls media access, and ultimately its media narrative.
The access issue may very well be a legitimate gripe, but it is very likely that “golf-gate” has less to do with some overarching White House media conspiracy and more to do with something much less sinister but just as cynical. I think the first black president probably didn’t want a lot of images of him hanging out with the most notorious black-athlete screwup since O.J. Simpson.
Yes, that sounds harsh. I know Woods didn’t kill anybody, but for plenty of black Americans, embarrassing us in spectacular fashion is almost just as bad. I know Woods has always been a little fuzzy about his own racial identification over the years, but this adds to the reason many black Americans find him embarrassing. He didn’t always self-identify as black, but the moment he proves himself to be a hypersexualized seducer of white women of all shapes, sizes and hair colors, he morphed into the media symbol of the ultimate negative stereotype that many black men spend every day trying to disprove.
President Obama has spent much of his life in the national spotlight doing everything in his power to prove that he does not embody the negative stereotypes that so many associate with black men. Hanging out with someone who embodies such stereotypes — particularly someone whom the president once drew regular comparisons to as a fellow multiracial, overachieving bridge builder — is problematic, even after he was comfortably re-elected.
He still needs public approval to push his agenda, and that’s hard to do if his likability takes a dent. He knows this. His advisers know this. And that is why they didn’t want the press hanging out with him and his golf buddy Tiger Woods.
The last thing the president needs is his Vernon Jordan moment. When asked what he and his BFF President Bill Clinton discussed on the golf course, Jordan famously (or, rather, infamously) replied, “P–sy,” on the record. The moment didn’t tarnish Clinton’s reputation, because a) if the Monica Lewinsky scandal didn’t, nothing will, and b) quite simply, he’s white and there’s more room for error, or scandal.
But there isn’t when you’re a black guy named Barack Hussein Obama. So the president has to pick his company carefully and accordingly.
Or he has to try to keep the press at bay — and that doesn’t seem to have worked out too well for him this time around.