Post-Olympics: In Which People Lose Their Minds

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on October 4, 2009

I certainly don’t think that Barack Obama’s failure to get the Olympics for Chicago–embarrassing as it is and will be in the short term–will do much to affect his long term political standing. If I were advising the Administration, I would tell it to take its lumps over this issue, and move on. Assuming that the Administration can get health care reform passed–we will put to the side the actual desirability of the Administration’s health care proposals–Barack Obama will prove anew that he is a political king of the hill, and recover his ability to inspire awe and fear amongst supporters and opponents alike.

You would, however, be forgiven for thinking that we are on the home stretch of Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, given some of the excuse-mongering that is going on concerning the President’s failure to get the Olympics for his adopted hometown. Consider:

“I’m still in a state of shock. I can’t believe we couldn’t get past the first round. I still thought the (Chicago) bid overall was the best,” said three-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer Ambrose “Rowdy” Gaines.

“Maybe there is some hangover from politics, from the last eight years,” Gaines said.

And again:

“There must be” resentment against America, the Rev. Jesse Jackson said, near the stage where he had hoped to give a victory speech in Daley Center Plaza. “The way we [refused to sign] the Kyoto Treaty, we misled the world into Iraq. The world had a very bad taste in its mouth about us. But there was such a turnaround after last November. The world now feels better about America and about Americans. That’s why I thought the president’s going was the deal-maker.”

Shall I presume that if Chicago got the Olympics, George W. Bush would have gotten credit and congratulations from the likes of Jesse Jackson? The very thought is laughable, nyet? And the double-standards, I trust, are obvious; if Chicago got the Olympics, Barack Obama would get the credit, and because Chicago didn’t get them, George W. Bush is getting the blame. Casinos in Vegas are less rigged than this.

When one actually examines the facts–I thought the “reality-based community” was supposed to be fond of the facts–one finds that there were a variety of reasons for the President’s failure in Copenhagen, and that none of them had anything to do with George W. Bush. For one thing, the Administration did not appear to have the slightest clue of how Olympics politics worked:

A sense of stunned bewilderment suffused Air Force One and the White House. Only after the defeat did many advisers ask questions about the byzantine politics of the Olympic committee. Valerie Jarrett, the president’s senior adviser and a Chicago booster who persuaded him to make the trip while at the United Nations last week, had repeatedly compared the contest to the Iowa caucuses.

But officials said the administration did not independently verify Chicago’s chances, relying instead on the Chicago 2016 committee assertions that the city had enough support to finish in the top two. Mr. Obama, Michelle Obama, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Ms. Jarrett worked the phones in recent weeks without coming away with a sense of how behind Chicago really was.

George W. Bush was not responsible for this failure. Barack Obama and his team were. In addition, the United States Olympic Committee clearly fell asleep on the job. Again, this was not the fault of the Bush Administration. But try telling all of this to Obama supporters who–when they are not blaming the Bush Administration for the Games going to Rio–are accusing conservatives and libertarians of being anti-American for not mourning sufficiently over Chicago’s failure to get the Games. I wanted Chicago to get the Olympics myself, but it isn’t as though respectable arguments against giving the Games to Chicago did not and do not exist. The new jingoists, however, don’t pay attention to uncomfortable facts, and dissent is no longer considered the highest form of patriotism.

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