Spotlight returns to Trump's intense interest in playing golf

The problem with Trump's golf habit isn't limited to hypocrisy. There's also the casual corruption to consider.
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By Steve Benen

On Christmas Eve, Donald Trump set aside about a half-hour for a video teleconference with military servicemembers, during which the president fielded an easy question: how would he spend his holiday? After plugging Mar-a-Lago -- the private club he still owns and profits from -- Trump insisted, "I really, pretty much work -- that's what I like to do is work."

Soon after, the president went golfing. It was, by any fair measure, a rather normal day for him.

On Tuesday, Trump closed out the year with a visit to his Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach for the 12th time during his Florida vacation.

According to CNN's tally, he has spent at least 252 days at a Trump golf club and 333 days at a Trump property as President.

This year alone, he spent at least 86 days at a golf club, despite a late start due to the government shutdown. The golf excursions have included the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia; his Bedminister, New Jersey, golf club; Trump National Doral outside Miami; and Trump International Doonbeg in Ireland.

As a rule, I don't much care how any president spends his downtime. It's one of the world's most difficult jobs, and if a president wants to unwind on the links, so be it.

But with Trump, it's not quite that simple. For example, one of Trump's most common complaints about Barack Obama's tenure was the frequency with which the Democrat played golf. The Trump Twitter Archive shows the Republican whining about his predecessor’s golfing over and over and over and over and over again. The implication seemed to be that Americans should perceive Obama as lazy and easily distracted.

It led Candidate Trump to assure voters he'd govern far differently. At an event in New Hampshire in Feb. 2016, while again complaining about Obama golfing, Trump declared that if he were in office, "I'd want to stay in the White House and work my ass off." It's a vow he repeated several times.

Instead, Trump golfs more than Obama at comparable points in their terms.

But in the larger context, the hypocrisy is the least of the troubles. Complicating matters is the fact that Trump is playing at his own courses, creating a dynamic in which taxpayers end up subsidizing properties the president owns and profits from.

How much of that money ends up in Trump's pocket is unclear, largely because there's no transparency.

It's the kind of casual corruption that's become the background noise of Trump's presidency, which too often goes unnoticed.

MORE: Today's Maddowblog