Olympian Failure

I was stunned – STUNNED – when Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Olympics was rejected apparently with prejudice and contempt – in the first round of voting, no less. And all this in utter disregard of the fact that President and Mrs. Obama had flown all the way to Copenhagen to make this personal appeal.

My assumption was that the choice of Chicago was already a done deal (which was fine with me) and that Obama only went to bask in the glow of this great “victory” for his new, internationalist foreign policy. I assumed that, Chicago style, the money under the table had already exchanged hands and that the votes had been counted. Why else risk the prestige of the American president ?

Now, originally I did not think that such a trip was becoming the American president, notwithstanding that the heads of government of Brazil, Spain and Japan did appear. And that was the point – the United States is not those these middling countries, and its president is not just another leader, primus inter pares (first among many). He is the leader of the free world, the world’s most powerful nation, and the leader who is expected to set the tone and direction of international affairs. So to travel there and make a speech – about himself, mainly – and then to lose ignominiously in the first round was a stinging rebuke to Obama personally and to the United States. And even if he went to satisfy a debt to his Chicago political cronies who stood to make a mini-fortune on these games, the defeat reinforces one unsettling notion about the stagecraft (and statecraft) of this White House: it is amateurish.

Granting that Obama took office with the least experience of any modern president, it is still the responsibility of the White House staff to put the president in positions that enhance his personal – and our national – prestige, rather than dissipate it. I may not care for Obama’s policies, but when the American President can be so easily trifled with – dismissed, as if he were the Prime Minister of, say, Spain – then the United States is hurt. And that is what is happening across the globe. Obama packs no punches, carries no weight, and has to be chided even by… France (!) for a lack of toughness.

Certainly, Netanyahu was able to reject Obama’s demand for a settlement freeze by just saying “no” (as advised in this space several months ago) without any consequences, and to his credit. That is good for Israel. What is bad for Israel – and the free world – is when Obama’s efforts are also summarily rejected by Iran, North Korea, Russia and the list goes on. There is a lack of gravitas, and experience, that might turn out to be frightening. Nations toy with him; he fires a volley of words at them, and they respond – occasionally – with pleasing words to him, that buys time but does not change behavior. That is more than naiveté; that is amateur hour in prime time.

Witness as well this week’s White House visit of dozens of doctors in support of Obama’s health coverage proposals. It is fine for him to rally support – but to dress them all in white coats, as if they were coming straight from their offices ? And for the White House to provide white coats to those who didn’t bring them ? Such a display – hokey beyond description – is a childish and heavy-handed attempt at a photo op and unworthy of an American president.

Every president uses photo ops to reinforce his image or policy goals. But do it with class, with dignity, and with more than five seconds’ of thought. Think Mike Deaver, Dick Morris or Karl Rove, and – like them or not – they knew how to stage-manage a presidency. Amateur hour can have grave consequences, far beyond the joy of watching pole-vaulters and marathon runners alongside Lake Michigan.

One response to “Olympian Failure

  1. Kvod HaRav

    WADR, American opinion of their country and the world’s opinion of their country are two totally different things.

    When Bush II made his “You’re with us or you’re with the terrorists” speech and began treating US allies with a heavy hand, people criticized him for his tactics. Bush, on the other hand, understood something simple: the world hates America. They hate it for its success because while most of Europe and Asia pursue socialist-type economies and, at best, experience middling success, America leads the world with the capitalist system that everyone else has dismissed as a failure. America’s negative position vis a vis world opinion has nothing to do with the recent Republican government. America is more prosperous, cultured and powerful than anywhere else in the world and when you are an older country or culture, this upstart success is a source of jealousy and hatred.
    Think about it: how much did the Marshall Plan spend to rebuild Europe, including the country that started WW2 in the first place? Has America ever received ANY gratitude? Ha!
    Bush II knew this and treated his resentful allies, especially the ungrateful Europeans, with appropriate demands.
    Hussein Obama, on the other hand, doesn’t understand this. He’s not a superior leader. He isn’t even first amongst equals. He’s American and there isn’t a world leader worth his weight in embezzled treasury bills that wouldn’t like to see him stumble and fall, the hatred of America around the world being so strong.
    Chicago never had a chance for two reasons:
    1) The only reason Obama has international popularity is because he is prepared to go anywhere any time and apologize for what a horrible country America is. That’s what the world wants to hear.
    2) Given the choice between a financially competent big from America and a shaky big from a corrupt, impoverished and crime-infested Latin American country, there was never a doubt that America would not get the Olympics. And why should they? If it’s the horrible country Obama has repeatedly claimed it is, why would the IOC give them anything?