Newt Gingrich: President Obama 'Fixated' on Final Four

Newt Gingrich says President Obama is acting like the "spectator in chief instead of the commander in chief."

Appearing on Fox News Thursday night, the former House speaker and presumed 2012 GOP presidential contender told Sean Hannity: "Yes, the administration has just sort of checked out. You know, the president has this fixation with the Final Four -- spent time on ESPN giving us his version of what really mattered to him, which was the Final Four," said Gingrich.

Obama, said Gingrich, "may be the most out-of-touch president in modern American history."

As TalkingPointsMemo and others have noted, Gingrich joins a chorus of Republican leaders blasting the president for his appearance on ESPN to fill out an NCAA bracket while emergencies continue in Japan and Libya, and Congress is at a stalemate on the budget.

On Twitter, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus complained: "How can @BarackObama say he is leading when [he] puts his NCAA bracket over the budget & other pressing issues?"

RNC spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said Wednesday, "With all of those pressing issues on the president's plate, we would be happy to hear the White House explain why filming an ESPN special on the NCAA Tournament should be a priority on his public schedule."

White House spokesman Jay Carney replied that the presidency is "a hard job" that requires someone adept at juggling its many demands.

"There are crises all the time, for every president," he said. The earthquake/tsunami/nuclear reactor catastrophe in Japan "is happening halfway around the world -- and it is severe and it is important, and it is the focus of a great deal of the president's attention. As are the events in the Middle East, as are the agenda items that he is pursuing to grow the economy and increase jobs in America."

Thursday night, Hannity referred to Obama's upcoming trip to Brazil as "another vacation to Rio" and said the president plays too much golf.

But at least one Republican defended Obama on that score.

"I'm glad he's out playing golf," Quayle -- a golfer himself -- told Fox Business Channel. "I think presidents deserve down time. And, believe me, he is in constant communication with what's going on. . . . What do you want him to do, stay in his house and be on the phone with the ambassador to Japan all the time?"