Earlier this month, millions were fixated on two television spectaculars. One was political, the Republican Party's maiden debate in the presidential sweepstakes with participants limited to only "natural born" U.S. citizens (Ted Cruz hopefully is listening.) The second was the PGA Championship, one of golf's annual four major tournaments with international participants of world-class ability.
The GOP debate turned into a two-course delight in which attempts at showmanship dominated substance. The first course kicked off in quiet, pre prime time featuring seven candidates who lacked sufficient poll numbers to make it to the main event. The top ten, too, were relatively unknown except for Jeb Bush who was trying for the "hat trick" of becoming the third member of his family to occupy the Oval Office and Donald Trump, the current leader of the pack, awash in ubiquitous media coverage.
Professional golf and its PGA Championship and three other majors are unique sporting events. No other sport requires its players to self-administer rules and call penalties on themselves when in violation or adhere to standards of conduct on and off the course that are impeccable. Furthermore, camaraderie among competitors is real and civil and no player would publicly register glee over an adversary's misfortunes -- quite the opposite.
This tournament, played on Pete Dye's diabolical masterpiece Whistling Straits on the Wisconsin shores of Lake Michigan, was filled with anticipation. Golf's number one player, Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy, was returning to competition after a lengthy recovery from a broken ankle. Twenty-two year old superstar Jordan Spieth was in pursuit of winning a third major victory in a single year, only accomplished by the legend Ben Hogan decades ago and more recently by Tiger Woods.
The Australian Jason Day was after his first major title following a heartbreaking loss in June at the U.S. Open played in Tacoma's Chambers Bay course, battling vertigo and a month later in an ever so close finish in the British Open Championship played at St. Andrews in Edinburgh, the home of golf. American Dustin Johnson would show his grit recovering from a four over par eight on the first hole of the PGA final round, with memories of missed a short birdie putt on number eighteen at Chambers Bay costing him the U.S. Open.
Spieth summed up all these qualities that separate golf from other sports. On one of the final back nine holes, his playing partner Day hit a 385-yard drive landing in the center of a narrow fairway. At that point, Spieth later admitted that no one would catch Jason. Indeed, Day's score of twenty under par was the lowest winning figure of any major. Having won two majors earlier in the year, Spieth seemed genuinely pleased with Day's first major win. Imagine this same magnanimity in boxing matches; football games; or other sports in which winning was everything.
It is probably impossible to imagine politics would be like if it followed golf in embracing these high and enduring standards of civility, sportsmanship and professionalism. Indeed, many politicians would regard this question as ranging from absurd and naïve to seriously uninformed. As a gross order of comparison, where in politics are the great men and women to enforce these standards as occur in the golfing world?
In golf, enforcers are the greats and the legends. In politics today, who are the equivalent Robert Jones, Arnold Palmers, Jack Nicklauses, Gary Players and dozens of others, young and old alike? In golf, how the game is played is as or more important as who wins that game. In politics, winning is the game. In golf, competition raises the bar bring forth more good players. In politics, competition is too often demeaning denying entry to those at to make a difference.
In golf, etiquette calls for recognizing the great shots of competitors. In politics, etiquette requires giving as little positive recognition to the oppositions as possible. And while no one prefers losing, in golf, dignity and civility trump anger and vindictiveness. In politics, civility is usually missing in action.
A more frightening proposition is to reverse this proposition. Suppose golf followed politics? Fair play would fall victim to foul play. Rules would count less. And the values that have made and will continue to make golf great would be twisted from doing one's best to doing whatever it takes to win.
This would not be a good thing and the game of golf would surely suffer.
___________________________________________________________ Harlan Ullman is UPI's Arnaud de Borchgrave Distinguished Columnist; Chairman of the Killowen Group that advises leaders of government and business; and Senior Advisor at both Washington D.C.'s Atlantic Council and Business Executives for National Security. His latest book is A Handful of Bullets: How the Murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand Still Menaces the Peace.
President Obama was not looking to start an arms race in the Middle East when he negotiated an accord with Iran. Obama said he wanted to stop Tehran's manufacturing of nuclear weapons. But in light of what they considered a bad agreement and afraid to rely on Washington's assurances, if Tehran were to threaten them, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates have begun looking for weapons to deter the Ayatollah's ambitions.
The accord negotiated by the U.S., Russia, France, and Tehran offers little but a hope that Iran will not have a nuclear weapon in 15 years. But here is what we do know: It provides Tehran trillions of dollars, that Iran, the most important financier of terrorist groups, will share with the likes of Hamas and Hezbollah.
Obama also says he had good intentions when he said that Syria's dictator Bashar al-Assad had to go. When that didn't work, Obama made a threat on American television; if Assad would crossed a red line by using chemical weapons against his own people, the U.S. would act. When Damascus gassed, according to Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, "hundreds of children," the President failed to act, and the Syrian strongman was emboldened. The unintended consequence has been an estimate of 330,000 dead and 4,013,292 Syrian refugees.
The U.S. accord with Havana is not better. The President, in search of a personal legacy, wanted to normalize relations with Havana. He gave in to Havana's blackmail in order to free an American hostage by releasing four convicted Cuban spies from American prisons, one of whom played a part in the murder of three Americans and a U.S. resident in international airspace by Cuban warplanes under the command of Cuba's then-Minister of the Armed Forces, General Raul Castro. Obama received in exchange an American hostage languishing in a Cuban jail for the crime of distributing computers among Havana's Jewish community.
Mr. Obama ordered removing Havana from the list of countries supporters of terrorism while American terrorists continue to enjoy the regime's hospitality.
And because Cuba's tourist industry is controlled by the military, American tourists are now bringing to Cuba's security forces millions of dollars.
While the U.S.-Cuba talks were underway, the Da Dan Xia, a Chinese ship, was intercepted by Colombia with a large shipment of weapons hidden under tons of cereal. The ship was on its way to two Colombian ports and then to Havana. To maintain its deniability of Cuba's terrorist activities, the U.S. failed to ask Cuba if the weapons were intended for the FARC, the Colombian terrorists.
In 2013, again Havana was caught, this time by Panama, in the process of smuggling war planes and war materiel on a North Korean ship to North Korea in violation of UN sanctions and Washington looked the other way.
Another unintended consequence of the deal with Havana has been the discarding, for all intents and purposes, of the Democratic Charter that limited recognition in the Americas to democratic governments freely elected and under the rule of law.
Washington may claim that it did not intend to subsidize Iranian support for terrorism or an increase of repression, suffering and abuse in Cuba, but those consequences are real and Raul Castro in Havana and the Ayatollahs in Iran have been emboldened.
As they say, the road to somewhere is paved with good intentions.