Stephen G. Smith, the editor of the reliably conservative Washington Examiner, penned an op-ed piece on Monday defending President Obama’s decision to play golf on Sunday when the erupting volcano in Iceland grounded his planned trip to Poland to attend the funeral of fallen president Lech Kaczynski.

You’ll find no greater fan of golf on Earth than me. But I’m not convinced by Smith’s attempt to make light of this kerfuffle. Smith starts out chalking up complaints about Obama’s golf outing on such a dark day to the usual wifely gripes about husbands who can’t resist the siren call of the links.

“I am not against a golfing president,” she said. “But what he should have done is gone to church and prayed for the poor Polish president.”

Well, yes. Skipping the links on a glorious Sunday in April and going to church would have been the more honorable thing to do — more “presidential” of Obama, the sage of “smart” diplomacy. Yet Smith didn’t write that. Instead, after some light-hearted banter about the world’s most frustrating but rewarding game, Smith noted part of his wife’s frustration was that Obama has played more rounds of golf (32) in his first 14 months in the Oval Office than celebrated golfer George W. Bush did in his two terms (24). Good for Mrs. Smith! But that’s part of what bugs me, and I wish bugged Mr. Smith. Bush got a lot of guff for playing golf during a time of war. So he quit. Yet he still gets crap, as the next bit shows — which ticks me of as much as a pull hook into the trees.

Even so, golf is most often associated with guys like Bush — retrograde white males, nurtured by exclusive country clubs and imbued with Republican values. Ike is a hero to this class, a manly sort of golfer who managed to squeeze in 800 rounds during his two terms and who even broke 80 at Augusta National.

For how long are we going to push this “Caddyshack” cliche? (And what does “retrograde white males” mean, exactly?) Yes … rich people play golf. But so do many more middle-class and “poor” folk. I get the feeling Smith has never been to the local muni near his home, which is well populated by “ordinary” folk who have never set foot on a yacht. Hell, go to the course in DC that has several tee shots where you aim at the Washington Monument (which I’ve played). You’ll see a great mix of folks pounding clubs into the ground, if “diversity” is your bag.

I covered the George W. Bush presidency for a few years at The Washington Times. And I spent a week near the “Bush Compound” in Kennebunkport, Me., reporting the news from the president’s ocassional vacation spot. I made it a point to bring my clubs, so I could go out and play on the same course Dubya and his Dad tread during their time at the summer home. You’d think it was a plush country club along the lines of Augusta National. And you’d be wrong. Despite the pictures on this link for Cape Arundel Golf Club, the course is actually quite modest. It’s a glorified “executive” course (meaning “short and simple,” to those unfamiliar with the term). In fact, I’ve played on several better muni courses in and around DC.

National Review’s Jay Nordlinger, himself a golf fan, has written often about the annoying “elite” perception golf has in the public consciousness, pushed by the MSM — even rightly noting that if Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez rips golf, that’s a point in the game’s favor. (Maybe Obama should talk up the game the next time they have a soul shake.)

I, like Smith, am reluctant to fault Obama for pursuing his passion for the game. In fact, I encourage him to keep hacking away — so he can do continual, righteous damage to the perception that it’s a game that only “retrograde white males” embrace. But there is a time to play. The day you were supposed to be at a high-profile funeral is not one of them. There is no doubt, however, that Obama is not going to be so pressured by the MSM that he’d feel a responsibility to cut back or give up playing while in office, despite the fact that we’re still at war. It would have been good of Smith to note that from his influential perch in journalism.

(Cross-posted at The Freedom Pub)