Obama's Caddyshack Moment

President Obama celebrates America's Great Outdoors in the East Room of the White House on Feb. 17, 2011. CBS

If only for a moment, it was President Obama as Carl Spackler, the befuddled groundskeeper played by Bill Murray in the 1980 classic, "Caddyshack."

Mr. Obama was celebrating America's Great Outdoors at an indoors ceremony in the East Room of the White House.

He noted the anomaly of his subject and venue, though his audience of environmentalists and wilderness advocates seemed not to mind. And he was quick to point out that the White House itself is "actually inside an 82-acre national park."

Mr. Obama noted that the parkland included an area "once found to have the 'densest squirrel population known to science.'"

"So we've got that going for us," he said, borrowing words that Murray transformed into a national catchphrase.

In character as groundskeeper Spackler, Murray spoke those words in a rant about how the Dalai Lama, instead of tipping him for a round of caddying, said he would instead receive on his deathbed, "total consciousness."

"So I got that goin' for me, which is nice," said Murray's Spackler.

Mr. Obama confined himself to speaking of the squirrels, and refrained from mentioning total consciousness on his deathbed.

In "Caddyshack," it was gophers, not squirrels, that were the object of Murray's homicidal rage.

"Licensed to kill gophers by the Government of the United Nations," he declared. "Man, free to kill gophers at will."

Just as well that the president kept gophers out of his remarks. Killing the furry creatures would likely not have gone done well with his environmental crowd.

But it was far from the first time an American president has pulled a line from the movies to make a point, or a joke.

Perhaps best remembered is former President Reagan's use of a line from the 1983 installment in the Dirty Harry series "Sudden Impact."

"Go ahead, make my day," said Inspector Callahan, daring an armed robber holding a gun to a hostage's head to fire, so Dirty Harry would be justified in shooting the gunman.

Reagan borrowed those words a year later, in issuing a veto threat to Congress.

"I have my veto pen drawn and ready for any tax increase that Congress might even think of sending up. And I have only one thing to say to the tax increasers: Go ahead, make my day."

His delivery was pitch perfect and Congress heeded his warning. A tax hike bill never reached his desk and the "Make My Day" line immediately became a phrase that defined his presidency.

It's unlikely the Carl Spackler words spoken by Mr. Obama will reach the same level of remembrance or oratory.

  • Mark Knoller On Twitter»

    Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent.

Comments

CBSN Live

pop-out
Live Video

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.