Obama’s Olympic push fails, Games awarded to Rio

Posted on October 2, 2009

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The International Olympic Committee stunned the United States when it eliminated Chicago in the first round of voting for the 2016 Summer Games host city, eventually awarding Rio de Janeiro with hosting duties (by the way, congratulations and good for you, Brazil). The defeat stung even more for President Obama, who made a last-minute decision to fly to Copenhagen in the midst of domestic and foreign policy struggles to make a personal push for Chicago.

Even the most liberal commentators are marking this as a setback for a President whose international star power wasn’t even enough to push Chicago to runner-up status. Obama’s trip seemed like more gladhanding for Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and the political machine through which he rose than an imperative and important trip to take.

I’m noticing some scathing criticism from those on the left saying Republicans rooted against America and hoped we wouldn’t get the Olympics just so Obama would fail. That’s cute on several levels, the first being an amazing turnaround from just nine months ago when it was supposedly verboten to question the patriotism of your political opponents. Second, it’s a pretty baseless charge. Speaking for myself, it would have been kind of neat to host the Olympics again, but let’s be realistic – we had the Summer Games 13 years ago and the Winter Games 7 years ago. Olympic memories are still fresh in the minds of many Americans, making an Olympic push less urgent than it might otherwise have been. In addition, the economic impact might have been a helpful spike, but not something that would turn around the fortunes of an entire nation.

Newsweek is even spinning the Olympic failure as a good thing for Obama in that it leaves his hands clean of the budget overruns and kickback scandals that would have inevitably followed. Umm, that’s kind of the point we on the right have been making, isn’t it? A CNN talking head even said that it’s not Obama’s fault for the failure as the Olympic bid was “almost unwinnable.” But if that was the case then why the hell make a big show of going over to Copenhagen and pushing for Chicago when you have no shot anyway? Just because “the other leaders were there?”

It’s sort of an unwritten rule of diplomacy that heads of state don’t show up unless it’s a done deal, which was one reason why Ed Morrissey and Allahpundit thought Chicago had it wrapped up. The whole incident illustrates some absolutely terrible political and foreign policy advice that Obama is receiving. The President quite simply should not have wasted his time and political capital personally campaigning for Chicago whether its his hometown or not.

Let’s dispense with the hyperbolic tea leaf reading and be realistic – this by no means puts the nail in the coffin for Obama’s Presidency. But it is a serious blow to his international credibility and his global rock star status. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – reality and humility can lead politicians to a more centrist and pragmatic course of governance.

Whether that will happen here is hard to say, but make no mistake, the shocking rejection of Chicago after Obama’s trip nukes the notion that we have as leader some sort of transcendent demigod whose very presence alters the course of history. This dose of the real world should be a helpful learning experience for the Obama administration, but I have no doubt it will quickly degenerate into yet another episode of “let’s blame everyone else for this.”

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Posted in: News, Politics