Search Box

Friday, October 2, 2009

Should Obama have gone to Copenhagen?

There's been a lot of talk this week about how Obama was somehow demeaning the Presidency by going to Copenhagen to lobby the IOC to get the Olympics for Chicago in 2016.

The Democrats are saying it was a noble effort, even if in a losing cause, and conservative commentators are saying that for Obama to go on a sales pitch like this when there are so many more pressing problems facing the country showed a lack of judgment.

But if Obama hadn't gone, he might have been criticized for that as well. All three other countries under consideration sent their heads of state to Copenhagen. If Obama had helped Chicago win, it would have created jobs. Yes, a lot of the money would have found its way into the pockets of corrupt Chicago political operatives, but thousands of new construction jobs are something this country needs.

As it was, the IOC members seem to have been unmoved, if not turned off, by Obama's participation. But no one, least of all Obama, could have predicted this, and the point is, he did try.

My take, as someone with little faith in Obama overall, is to give him a pass on this one. We do have more pressing problems, but it's not as if he would have solved them by staying at home an extra day or two. And it does smell a little as if he's using his office to pay off old debts, but it would have been good for the country, so it's justifiable.

Anyway, there are plenty of other, better reasons to criticize him -- like his foreign policy.

Or his domestic ones.


Anonymous said...

There are a couple of aspects of this that bother me. One is that Obama is removing dignity from the Presidency. Trips like this one were minor activities delegated to others in past administrations. Obama is doing himself activities that past presidents would never have done. Perhaps he wants to appear to be a 'regular guy', 'a man of the people'. But he is removing the prestige of the office.

Further, if the President of the US is going to appear at the IOC Olympic site selection meeting, he better win. I believe his true motives had nothing to do with the US economy and everything to do with bringing a rich prize to his Chicago buddies. We now know that Obama did not have this deal in the bag when he went over there. He got his nose smacked by the IOC with an embarrassing first round elimination, gathering the fewest votes. He must be an incredibly arrogant man to think that he could go to the IOC, a highly political organization with lots of proven past corruption, and just charm them with his star power at the last minute to win the bid. Instead he lost, embarrassing himself and our country - and for what? Was this prize worth a big gamble?

Obama is also un-presidential in his carelessness. Has any past president made an error equal to his treatment of the Crowley incident? Obama publicly jumped on a minor incident with no national importance and made racially charged comments without knowing the facts, then had to eat his words. The President is not supposed to behave this way - he's supposed to be careful, guarded and calculating - he's the leader of the most powerful country in the world, his words matter.

Maybe its a reflection of the internet generation, where many people publish the details of their lives through various channels (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) - they are less careful about what's presented to the public. And maybe Obama is one of the least qualified presidents in history, and shows it regularly.

- Ed

John Craig said...

Ed --
Thanks for your comment. I agree that Obama got his nose smacked; and if he went over there thinking that his very presence would convince the IOC voters to award the Games to Chicago, then that is the height of arrogance. (I'm not sure about the extent to which he actually thought that, though.) I also agree that his real motivation was to reward old Chicago buddies; but I also think that even if that was his real underlying motive, the trip was justifiable based on the number of American jobs it would have created.

As far as him debasing his office by traveling to Copenhagen, I don't see that. True, other Presidents haven't done that -- either before LA, Atlanta, or Salt Lake City. But at least he's working as an advocate of the US there, rather than an apologist, as he has on so many other foreign trips. Maybe the question boils down to, would he have made the trip on behalf of any other American city? My suspicion is he wouldn't have, but we'll never know for sure.

No question that he mishandled the Crowley/Gates incident, and the subsequent "beer summit" was pretty lame as well, if you ask me. The only comparable incident that I can recall where a Presdient injected himself into a local crime matter was when Nixon commented publicly on the Manson murders back in 1969.