President Barack Obama spoke about immigration for 33 minutes at Del Sol High School a week ago Friday, then followed it up over the weekend playing golf at two of the most impressive courses in Southern Nevada.
In that sense, Obama was no different from the regular Joes who mix business with pleasure while visiting the area, although the president is never really “off duty.” For Obama, his time on the links satisfies his love for golf that has overtaken his partiality to basketball as he’s gotten older and creakier.
Obama has played more than 200 rounds of golf since he entered the White House, but this was the first time he played in Las Vegas as president, according to the Obama Golf Counter website. Don Van Natta Jr., who wrote “First Off the Tee,” a book on presidents and golf, reported Obama played nine holes at Bali Hai Golf Club near Mandalay Bay soon after he became a candidate in 2007.
Obama played 27 holes Nov. 22 at the exclusive Shadow Creek Golf Course in North Las Vegas. His partners were retired Yankees great Derek Jeter; Steve Cloobeck, a major Democratic donor and chief executive of Diamond Resorts International; and Las Vegas Sun owner Brian Greenspun.
Obama shot a 90 over the first 18 holes, according to Review-Journal columnist Norm Clarke. He became the fourth president — after Bill Clinton and the George Bushes, father and son — to play the course, according to Golf Las Vegas Now. Jimmy Carter reportedly has visited Shadow Creek but not played.
The next day Obama got up early and played for 2½ hours at Reflection Bay Golf Club at Lake Las Vegas in Henderson. His partners were White House aides and Butch Harmon, Tiger Woods’ former swing coach who has given Obama lessons as well.
Fifteen of the past 18 presidents have been golfers but Obama, whose handicap has been reported at 16 or 17, is far from the most avid. Woodrow Wilson is believed to have played more golf than any president, at 1,200 rounds.
President Dwight Eisenhower played almost 800 rounds and was asked once why he played so much. He said golf, fishing and shooting were his favorite recreation pursuits.
“First they take you into the fields,” he said. “There is mild exercise, the kind an older individual probably should have. And on top of that, it induces you to take at any one time, two or three hours, if you can, where you are thinking of that bird, or that ball, or the wily trout. And to my mind, that is a very helpful, beneficial kind of thing, and I do it whenever I get the chance, as you well know.”
— Steve Tetreault
Another seemingly offhand comment from U.S. Sen. Harry Reid has made waves, these rippling to St. Louis.
Chitchat with a New York Times reporter following a recent interview for some reason turned to politics in the Vatican, according to an item on the newspaper’s political blog last week.
“We sure do like this new pope,” Reid said of Pope Francis.
In the discussion, Reid brought up Cardinal Raymond Burke, the former archbishop of St. Louis. Burke, a critic of the pope, was demoted twice in the past year as Francis reshaped the Vatican bureaucracy. Burke, a fervent opponent of embryonic stem cell research and gay marriage, was the church official who once memorably said he would deny communion to then-presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry because of Kerry’s view on abortion.
Reid, who is Mormon, said he met Burke once and had a good conversation with him. But, he said, “Claire McCaskill and others just hate the man.”
McCaskill, the Democratic senator from Missouri, has a history with Burke. In 2007, Burke pressed a Catholic high school in the St. Louis archdiocese to disinvite McCaskill as a commencement speaker because of her views on abortion even though the senator’s daughter was in the graduating class.
Still, McCaskill moved to distance herself from Reid’s comment.
“Those were Harry Reid’s words, not Claire’s; she would never use the word ‘hate’ when talking about the church,” McCaskill spokesman John LaBombard told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Some wondered if there was a method to Reid’s comment. The Times noted the Nevadan’s remark about McCaskill came several hours after she, along with five other Democratic senators, declined to vote for him as Senate Democratic leader and went public with her decision.
“Was it subtle political payback?” wondered the St. Louis newspaper. Review-Journal columnist Steve Sebelius tweeted the same question.
Neither Reid nor McCaskill commented further.
— Steve Tetreault
A group of conservative Republicans has formulated a wish list for the 2015 Nevada legislative session, but the top priorities probably look like lumps of Christmas coal to Democrats and liberal organizations.
The Top 25 list, developed by several unidentified current and former state lawmakers and state and county GOP officials, reads like a conservative’s dream come true.
Coming out on top of the list are Voter ID and repeal of the modified business tax. Next up is education reform, including vouchers, the elimination of tenure, bonuses for high-performing teachers and a liberalized charter school law.
Conservative Republicans also want to apply the two-thirds vote requirement now in effect in the Legislature to raise taxes or fees to include measures forwarded to the ballot as well, and they want to allow those with permits to carry concealed weapons on college campuses.
Jim Clark, president of Republican Advocates and who has served on the Nevada and Washoe County GOP central committees, published the list in Nevada News &Views, which is published by conservative GOP activist Chuck Muth’s Citizen Outreach.
Rounding out the list:
■ State pre-emption of all local gun laws.
■ Transfer federal lands in Nevada to the state.
■ Reform construction defect and tort laws.
■ Reduce the costs of Medicaid expansion to the state, possibly through the imposition of copays.
■ Provide that noncitizens who are issued driver privilege cards furnish proof of insurance just as driver licensees must.
■ Restrict prepaid welfare debit cards from use at bars, strip clubs and brothels.
■ Limit entitlements such as Millennium Scholarships to lawful residents.
■ Repeal the 2013 energy bill that, according to the group, has ratepayers subsidizing Warren Buffet’s purchase of Nevada Energy.
■ Repeal or modify “hate crime” laws so that enhanced penalties are not based solely on an alleged victim’s race.
■ Enact government efficiencies recommended by the SAGE Commission.
■ Reform the “financially shaky” state employee’s retirement system.
■ Amend “prevailing wage law” for public works and school construction.
■ “Revitalize” the Yucca Mountain nuclear storage project.
■ Reform collective bargaining laws for governmental employees.
■ Modify or repeal minimum wage law.
■ Reform the process of legislative committees setting compensation of constitutional officers and their chiefs of staff.
■ Include public employee union contract negotiations in Nevada’s open meeting law.
■ Repeal the common core education standards.
■ Institutionalize parents’ rights to home school their children.
■ And finishing with No. 25, “more to come.”
Should be a fun legislative session. Feb. 2 can’t come soon enough.
— Sean Whaley
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at email@example.com or 202-783-1760. Follow @STetreaultDC. Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-687-3900. Follow @seanw801 on Twitter.