Were you as
disappointed as I was when superlobbyist Jack Abramoff walked out of the
courthouse in traditional Orthodox Jewish garb, which happens to look an awful
lot like typical gangster chic? If Abramoff or his lawyers had given the matter
more thought, he would have worn a cashmere sweater over a Cutter & Buck
polo, salmon-colored plus fours, over-the-calf Argyle socks, saddle shoes and a
salt-and-pepper tam-o'-shanter. That's the outfit for "I bought influence
by treating congressmen, their families and aides to lavish golf trips in
It bothers me when
a big shot like Abramoff blows an opportunity to promote golf. Fortunately, my
friends in the mainstream media get it. "Golf is acquiring the whiff of
scandal," The New York Times trumpeted in a recent article--the scandal
being, as far as I could tell, the 70 grand that Big Jack paid to introduce
representatives Tom DeLay of Texas and Bob Ney of Ohio to the Old Course at St.
Andrews. Golf, continued the Times, is "an almost irresistible political
carrot that is used to buy favor and access."
Putting aside for a
moment the propriety of bribing elected officials, you have to love that golf
has become the gold-standard currency. L'affaire Abramoff makes the Abscam
congressmen of 1980, with their cash-stuffed pockets, look low-rent. It makes
former speaker of the house Jim Wright, who allegedly sold thousands of copies
of his self-published memoir to political supplicants, look like a kid with a
Mark Twain, were he
still alive, would have to change his definition of golf from "a good walk
spoiled" to "a spoiled pol walking."
Some will miss the
point. The Times reported that a lawyer teaching ethics to a class of FBI
agents told them, "Golf is bad."
Huh? If golf were
bad, you wouldn't have Washington weasels selling out Indian tribes,
tree-huggers, miners' unions, teachers, retirees and poor people for a free
round in a Rust Belt pro-am. No, golf is very, very good. It's humbling: Can
you imagine how Tom (the Hammer) DeLay would treat Democrats if he had never
four-putted from three feet? It's educational: Several courses in Hawaii are
adjacent to ancient petroglyphs. It has clearly stated rules, analogous to the
1978 FISA law requiring a federal warrant for domestic spying, and a code of
conduct so strict that players routinely call penalties on themselves--which no
doubt informs the conscience of former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed, who
crossed the Swilcan Burn on Abramoff's dollar.
Is it too soon to
nominate Abramoff for the World Golf Hall of Fame?