In this July 31, 2015 file photo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump drives his golf buggy on the Turnberry golf course in Turnberry, Scotland.
Photo by Scott Heppell/AP

The presidential golf Americans aren’t supposed to see

Updated

Donald Trump assured the public on Christmas day that he’d get “back to work” the next day “in order to Make America Great Again.” That wasn’t quite true: the president instead decided to play golf on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

The Rachel Maddow Show, 12/28/17, 9:08 PM ET

Trump asserts 'absolute right' to do what he wants with Justice

Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney, talks with Joy Reid about Donald Trump’s apparent belief that the attorney general should protect the president and that he has the right to do what he wants with the Justice Department.
Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney, talks with Joy Reid about Donald Trump’s apparent belief that the attorney general should protect the president and that he has the right to do what he wants with the Justice Department.
And while all of the usual questions still apply – the hypocrisy, the broken campaign promises, the ethical concerns about Trump promoting properties he still owns and profits from – yesterday’s presidential excursion was a little different. As HuffPost noted, when CNN tried to get some footage of Trump on the course, “a white box truck parked right in front of those cameras and blocked the news organization’s view.”

While the Secret Service denied that the truck was intentionally placed to obstruct views of Trump, CNN’s Dan Merica pointed out the significance of the vehicle’s placement.

″The president and the White House have tried to obscure the fact that President Trump golfs on a regular basis,” Merica said. “This is a man who ran for president, who criticized President Barack Obama regularly for playing golf during his presidency, but that criticism hasn’t continued into the Trump presidency.”

Local law enforcement also denied having anything to do with the truck, leading to questions as to who was responsible for the efforts to prevent the media from seeing the president.

To be sure, this isn’t entirely new. Earlier this year, White House officials, apparently feeling a little embarrassed, routinely tried to pretend Trump wasn’t playing golf when he was. At one point in February, administration officials went so far as to make an AP reporter “wait in a room with black plastic over the windows while the president played golf.”

In other words, the introduction of a big truck to shield Trump from public view may have been a new tactic, but taking steps to keep the president’s golf habit away from the cameras is an ongoing effort.

The question, of course, is why.

I suspect the answer is that Trump World and its allies believe that if Americans don’t see images of the president playing golf, then we simply won’t believe he golfs as often as he does.

For some, this appears to be an effective strategy. Over the summer, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) hosted a forum with constituents and argued, in reference to Trump, “I think if you compare the golfing with what Obama had, you’d find he hasn’t golfed that much. Because except for Eisenhower, Obama’s golfed more than any other president.”

That was ridiculously wrong – at this point in his presidency, Trump has golfed far more than Obama – but Grassley may not have realized the truth, in part because Obama allowed himself to be seen on golf courses, and Trump doesn’t.

Indeed, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if this president simply started pretending that the tallies of his golf trips are wrong. Plenty of folks, not having seen any photos or footage of Trump on the links, will probably believe him.