Later, I asked him if he felt vulnerable out in the open like this. "No. I don't feel unsafe playing golf. I don't feel unsafe in the White House, either. They keep catching these guys. The system works."
Other than that, it was like playing with the assistant grocer down the block. He shanked a wedge once and turned to Bowles and Mulvoy (the single-digit handicappers) and moaned, "Now what'd I do there?" But he never invoked the Executive Privilege Redo or even the Presidential Override. He could have. Who was going to stop him? Lito?
Not that he was above taking a putt now and again when it didn't matter to the bet, but only after everybody from me to the caddies to the press aide had practically sprained a larynx trying to be the first to give it to him. A guy like Mulvoy does not normally give downhill, sidehill six-footers to an opponent, but I'm sure he wasn't eager to get audited for the next 20 years, either.
On about the 3rd hole Clinton was meandering along when I heard him say to Joe, his caddie, "I had an 81 here one day, but I wasn't thinking about things that day."
And so I stopped and said, "You thinking about something today?"
And he said, "I've got Bosnia about to blow up on me."
Pards and I won the first nine, one up, and as the day progressed, I almost forgot about the Secret Service men with their backs to our drives, watching hole after hole for any suspicious robins. I also forgot about all the golf carts following us, some with telephones, some with Secret Service, some with aides-decamp, one with the official White House photographer, one with the White House doctor and one with Lito, who would materialize magically now and again with refreshments.
On the 11th tee Lito appeared with five colorful and mysterious looking pills that looked a lot like George Jetson's dinner. The President looked at them as if they would have to be inserted somewhere other than orally. "Look at these," he groaned. "Honestly, now, do you feel any security in knowing that the leader of your country has to take this many pills?" We all laughed, except the doctor, who hollered, "Just take them!" He did. (The doctor said they were vitamins.)
President Taft called the White House "the lonesomest place in the world," but right then Clinton and his smile seemed a million miles from it. I could tell because he kept putting his arm on my shoulder and saying things like, "Some day, huh?" and, "This is terrific." I asked, "Mr. President, which keeps you from spending more time on the course, Hillary or the Secret Service?" And he said, "Oh, they don't mind. Hillary is actually very supportive of my golf. She thinks it makes me function better." I asked him how he had been able to take three strokes off his handicap and still find time to run the world. "It's all because I get to play with so many good players now," he said. "The best perks of this office are who you get to play golf with. I've played with Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Raymond Floyd, Amy Alcott. Amy Alcott had a 33 on the front nine the day I played with her. Thirty-three!"