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Saturday, October 3, 2009

ObamOlympic Fail

There's lots of talk today about how President Obama staked his prosaic on convincing the IOC to bring the 2016 Olympics to Chicago. Pundits are pointing out the obvious parallels between Obama's flop in Copenhagen and the prospects of winning over other nations with good intentions and lofty rhetoric. It's only fair, I suppose, because if Chicago has landed the Games, the front pages would be filled with praise for Obama pulling off such a bold gamble.

Ultimately, of course, this has nothing to do with the White House, and probably never should have. President Obama's decision to link himself so tightly to the Olympic decision is one of the key flaws in his governing style. Everything is about Barack Obama, all the time. A blowhard Harvard professor yells at a cop; the President blames the cop, and then puts on a lengthy show of national racial harmony and beer. The auto industry is looking for a bailout; the President replaces the head of GM. Chicago wants to bask in the Olympic flame; the President hops on a plane to close the deal for "his town".

Victor Davis Hansen writes that the ObamOlympic full-court press may have backfired among the IOC officials who certainly like Obama, but don't seem to respect him.
And the more I watched Barack/Michelle do the “I grew up in the neighborhood” thing, the more I noticed the Euro-audience wincing [Not smart bragging about your childhood Chicago “right hook” to an audience that has just watched horrific fighting in the streets of Chicago]).

But even without the self-centered story-telling it was a hard sell anyway. How can a post-national, I’m sorry Obama, trapped in a sort of we are the world paradox, be seen in nationalistic and near tribal fashion stumping for his own home town? Again, it did not help that he appeared in campaign mode, tossing out the usual personal, somewhat hokey (and all but narcissistic) stories about himself and his family, that I know don’t resonate, much less make effective arguments, in the less therapeutic world of hardball politics abroad. In short, the community organizer was out organized by the multicultural ascendant Rio.
Lots of people grew up in Tokyo, Madrid, and Rio. Lots of people have touching stories about how much it means to them. That doesn't make up for Chicago's lack of Olympic facilities, the 50-50 split among Chicagoans on giving Major Daley a blank check for the next eight years, and the city's status as the hometown of political corruption.

I like having the Olympics in America. Mostly, I just like them to be a similar time zone so that I don't have to get up at 3am to watch a basketball game or try to avoid the results of a track meet for ten hours so I can be surprised on tape delay. But hosting the Olympics always seemed like a raw deal. The benefits are short-term construction jobs and long-term civic pride. The costs are massive spending on arenas that will only be fully utilized for two weeks, as well as tremendous incentives for corruption as public money flows into the host city.

Following Chicago's embarrassing exit as the first city out of the running for the 2016 Games, the President's inner circle complained about the nasty politics that go on behind the scenes at the IOC. Thank goodness they'll never have to deal with that kind of thing at the UN.

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