GOPers freaking out over Obama March Madness picks: A retrospective

Here are some of the most ridiculously over-the-top right-wing responses to Obama's brackets


Elias Isquith
March 19, 2014 7:38PM (UTC)

As he does every year, President Obama unveiled his picks for the NCAA March Madness tournament on Wednesday. And as he does every year, the president decided to play it safe, mostly choosing top-seeded teams and predicting a final matchup between four perennial contenders. It's a bit boring, really, even if Obama's correct prediction in 2009 of a North Carolina championship makes it harder to knock his system.

Just as you can expect an Obama prediction on the NCAA every year, you can also expect conservatives to respond with fake outrage over the president taking time from his busy schedule to weigh in on college basketball. The right-wing Obama NCAA bracket freakout is more intense some years than others, but you can always bet that at some point, somewhere, some bored conservative or desperate Republican politician will complain about having a basketball fan as the Commander-in-Chief.

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Here are a few of the silliest right-wing freakouts over Obama's bracket:

* Most recently, a Breitbart writeup of Obama's 2014 picks ends with a textbook example of the kind of disingenuous scolding that's defined conservatives' jabs at the Obama brackets. "Pieces of Ukraine are falling apart and the health care plan's a mess," Breitbart's Daniel Flynn writes. "But we finally have a president who really knows basketball, and for the next three weeks that's all that matters. Thank goodness for distractions."

* Yet 2011 was clearly the peak year when it comes to right-wing bracket whining. During 2011's March Madness, conservatives made a big deal out of Obama taking the time to make picks while there was chaos in Japan over the tsunami, strife in Libya over the fall of Gaddafi, and stasis in Congress over producing a new budget. Rush Limbaugh cheekily blamed a dip in the stock market on Obama's bracket, while Newt Gingrich declared Obama was "hiding from his job behind NCAA picks." RNC head Reince Priebus tweeted, "How can @BarackObama say he is leading when he puts his NCAA bracket over the budget & other pressing issues?"

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* That same year, Fox News had a story by Andrea Tantaros on Obama's picks with the following title: "March Madness -- Obama Fills Out NCAA Bracket But Is Missing In Action on Japan, Libya and the Budget"

* Again in 2011, Hot Air's Allahpundit had a post complaining about Obama's brackets. He claimed a GOP president would be excoriated by the press if he did the same thing during 2011's ongoing crises. "As for my own picks," Allahpundit snarked, "I’ve got Qaddafi in the Libyan regional, radioactive steam over the containment vessels out east, and China over Duke in the final. At the buzzer."

* In 2013, the right-wing news site Townhall had a piece by Guy Benson chastising Obama for having the wrong "priorities." Benson said Obama's filling out brackets every year was politically brilliant but no excuse for "neglecting core governing responsibilities" by failing to present a budget on time.

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* A 2013 Politico story featured a handful of Republicans complaining about Obama's brackets and implying the president was doing them in order to distract attention from his failures. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said, "“So why he’s doing this? It’s a good soft news story. His budget is going to be met with absolutely no support from Democrats and Republicans.” Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani also hit Obama, saying, "[Obama's] having fun. He’s entitled to have some fun, but usually the way I look at it is you have fun after you do your work. And the president hasn’t done his work."

* And way, way back in 2009, before it was cool to slam Obama for liking basketball, celebrated Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski (a.k.a. Coach K) slightly tweaked the president for his bracket, saying, "[A]s much as I respect what he's doing, really, the economy is something that he should focus on, probably more than the brackets." Coach K is a Republican.

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Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a former Salon staff writer.

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