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August 24, 2014
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Publisher's Notebook: It's time to put leadership before your golf game, Commander in Chief

Journalists are being beheaded by religious primitives, 18,000 Russian soldiers are ready to march on Ukraine, Hamas is lobbing rockets on Israel, immigrants are pouring across our southern borders, an American city is under what appears to be martial law and our commander in chief is playing golf — lots and lots of golf.

For the record, I enjoy a good golf game. I haven’t actually played a good golf game in years, but I do enjoy getting out on the course and whacking that little dimpled ball everywhere but the fairway.

I usually play when I have three or four hours to blow. Golf is fun, but it can take a few hours to get in 18 holes, so golf isn’t a sport for someone with a full calendar.

I’ll guess our commander in chief can play 18 holes faster than most. The president has the power to pretty much clear out an entire course, so he and his partners have the place to themselves.

I’ll also guess the course is filled with Secret Service agents who must love standing out in the sun wearing black suits and bullet-proof vests while the president shares a laugh with his golf partner.

“Did I tell you the one about the two publishers who walked into a bar?”

Last week — a day or two after American journalist James Foley had his head hacked off by a hooded animal who wants us to believe he and his friends are godly — President Obama held a press conference from Martha’s Vineyard, an island south of Cape Cod where rich people go to take a break from the rigors of being rich.

Many of them spend their vacations ranting against capitalism, wringing their hands on the struggles of the oppressed before asking someone to pass the caviar and crackers.

Obama condemned the beheading and promised to get to the bottom of it, then he went out and played another round of golf, instilling fear in our enemies and hope for those who had, until then, felt hopeless.

“OK, where were we?” he might have asked his golf partner. “Oh, yeah. Tee time!”

British Prime Minister Cameron was just one day into his own vacation last week, but cut his short and headed back to London when he heard that the lunatic who cut the journalist’s head off had a British accent.

Cameron probably read one or two leadership books where they dedicate a couple of chapters on crisis management and how leaders should respond when the roof starts falling in.

I have a few of those books in my office and I don’t recall any of them suggesting a good game of golf.

“Two of your employees have been taken hostage by an angry reader with a sharp pencil and you are the publisher. You should:

A) Evacuate the building and call 911.

B) Throw your editor in the way and run as fast as you can.

C) Slip out the back door and head for the golf course.

As we’ve learned from our Civics 101 class, the president also serves as our commander in chief and it’s awfully difficult to command anything from a golf course or vineyard, even with a Blackberry.

I’m pretty sure Truman, Eisenhower and Roosevelt (both of them) would be handling this much differently today.

It could be that our commander has no idea what to do about any of it, so, what the hell, may as well play golf.

But effective leaders act like they know what to do even when they don’t because it gives followers a sense of comfort.

“Thank God the commander is here!”

In this digital age where the entire world is watching, what kind of signal does it send when our president has a press conference in a golf shirt and rides off on a golf cart while Rome burns?

How about the family of James Foley? I wonder how comforted they were after learning that our commander in chief was focused on a sand wedge while their son’s killer was sharpening his knife and preparing for the next slaughter?

How about the thousands of Christians trapped in Iraq and facing genocide because they believe in Christ and not Muhammad?

After all, we created that mess in Iraq and it’s our responsibility to fix it. And, yes, I blame Bush and Bush for that. Iraq was better off with Saddam than it is today. It takes a monster to deal with monsters and Saddam kept the monsters in check.

The world is in pretty bad shape today and any hope of a better outcome will require extraordinary leadership and command.

Our commander needs to put away the golf clubs, grab a tie and at least act as if he’s engaged in something other than the angle of a 40-foot putt.

Jeff Ackerman is publisher of The News-Review. He can be reached at 541-957-4263 or

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The News-Review Updated Aug 24, 2014 12:06AM Published Aug 24, 2014 12:06AM Copyright 2014 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.