President's Secret Fly-Fishing Humiliation

Montana outing leaves Obama empty-handed and America shamed

By Sara K. Smith
|  Monday, Aug 17, 2009  |  Updated 1:15 PM CDT
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Teach a man to fish, and he'll eat for a year -- unless he's President Obama, in which case you really cannot teach a man to fish.

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It should surprise no one that President Obama is a wretched fly fisherman, as he cannot bowl and shows only a minimum of competence at golfing. Were it not for his basketball skills, he might be considered the least athletic American president since LBJ, whose idea of physical exertion was hurling empty beer cans out of his convertible as he drove around the Texas Hill Country.

This past weekend, the president tried his hand at fishing in Montana -- a lovely place to learn this incredibly simple sport in which a string with a hook at the end is dragged though water in order to attract fish.

Mr. Obama had been eagerly anticipating the fly-fishing trip, so much so that his Secret Service detail gave him his own personalized fishing rod. The president also has his own personal fly-fishing adviser: his deputy chief of staff, Jim Messina, is a Montana native.
New rod or not, Mr. Obama came up empty-handed, though his press secretary, Robert Gibbs, also a first-time fly fisherman, did land a fish.

What a bitter pill to swallow, that! When you hear the word "sportsman," the face of the doughily avuncular Robert Gibbs is probably the first that leaps to mind. And yet he bested the president in this crucial test of leadership.

No wonder Obama didn't want any real-time record of this humiliating outing. The Chicago Sun-Times said that "no reporters or TV cameras were allowed on the trip" to the East Gallatin River, where the president met his ichthyological Waterloo.

Still, one has to wonder: if a president will not allow TV cameras to record an unsuccessful fly-fishing venture, might there be more crucial information he's keeping from the public? How terribly ironic that the president who promised to bring transparency and accountability to the White House has cloaked the most innocent of sporting activities in a Nixonian veil of secrecy.

Avid outdoorsperson Sara K. Smith writes for NBC and Wonkette.

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