Tee for two: Obama and Clinton's green credentials

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President Barack Obama held a rare four-hour meeting at the weekend with Bill Clinton, his Democratic predecessor in the White House. The encounter took place not in the Oval Office or some stuffy conference centre, but at that most beloved of presidential escapes, the golf course.

Afterwards, both sides were tight-lipped not only about what was discussed, but even about the outcome of the game. "President Clinton and President Obama enjoyed their round of golf today," was all their spokesmen would say, in identical statements.

The game, which took place on the course at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, confirmed an ancient Washington truth, that golf oils the wheels of power. For proof, look no further than the game in June between Mr Obama and John Boehner, the Republican Speaker of the House, that briefly upstaged the US Open and which offered hope of an end to the city's political deadlock.

Almost every recent US president has been a golf devotee (the exception being Jimmy Carter, and look what happened to him).

Mr Obama's top priority is to avoid a similar one-term fate. Was he trying to enlist Mr Clinton's help in promoting his latest $450bn jobs plan? The White House, of course, wasn't saying.

The most important thing on Saturday, however, was to relax. The game, Bill Clinton once said, was "like life in a lot of ways. The most important competition is the one against yourself. All the biggest wounds are self-inflicted. And you get a lot of breaks you don't deserve, so it's important not to get upset when you have a bad day." To which Barack Obama would surely say, amen.