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And then they were last

By Daniel M. Ryan
web posted October 5, 2009

After the ballyhoo, the result was a shock. The CNN anchor on duty at the time of the IOC's announcement couldn't believe he had heard it. The city of Chicago's pitch for the 2016 Olympics included President Obama himself, an unprecedented move for a United States city and President. Both he and Michelle pleaded the case for Chicago in person. There were rumors that the African delegates were prepared to vote for Chicago. Regardless of their veracity, it was almost a sure bet that the city would either be the winner or the runner-up.

Then, on Friday morn in our time zones, the IOC announced that Chicago finished last of the four. It would be Tokyo, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro that would advance to the next round; Rio ended up taking the honors. Had Rio beat out Chicago in the final round, it wouldn't have been that surprising. After all, there had never been an Olympics summer-game city in the Southern hemisphere outside of the British Commonwealth. America had won the honors as recently as 1996 for the Summer Games and 2002 for the Winter Games. Rio's win can easily be understood as being fair to a previously overlooked region.

Such graciousness would have easily come to Obamaite Americans had Chicago been elbowed out in the final run-off – but not under the present circumstances.

The Chicago Tribune – yes, the upscale paper - has already started "Honk If You Hate The IOC" campaign. The usual suspects have blamed former president George W. Bush for the outcome. If the blame-Bush bandwagon gets enough momentum, W. could energize the Republican base by asking publicly if he was still President. Someone else could get an easy chuckle by noting that "D" seems to stand for Deflection or Distraction.

Those not beholden to the "D" wasted little time in fingering the current residents of the White House for the defeat. Not without cause, as President Obama did open himself up for it.

There's a certain moral authority that comes with a Head of State remaining above the fray. In the case of a President, acting Presidentially does keep that Head of State from descending into the necessarily partisan role of Head of Government. A President so indulging himself gives an opportunity to members of the opposing party to simply ignore him from then on in. Once the high ground is ceded, even if it's more footage-worthy to duke it out as one of the boys, all that's left when the fur stops flying is the memory that the high ground has been vacated. A memory that subsequent "boys" will remember and use – perhaps even count on.

During his nine months in the Oval Office, President Obama has not done so. A recent example was he refusing once again to play the race card in response to criticism of his policies. His Copenhagen IOC-lobbying "trip of ashes" was not a descent into partisanship, 'tis true, but it was a descent of another kind. Old home ties can justify it, but the effort did entail a jurisdictional cross. He doing so feeds into the impression that Obama is a micromanager by nature, as well as the impression that he's a bit of a glamour hound. There are other, less flattering, inferences that can be drawn also.

One of them is, "you can get that man's goat." President Obama already has a reputation for being more thin-skinned than his predecessor. In any game habituated by people of words, getting a rise out of someone is considered a victory. If they get your goat, you lose. Moreover, said victory is built upon by using the same ploy to force an outcome, or to ruin the more vulnerable figure's judgment. It isn't exactly nobility in action, but the process does assure cool-headedness in the legislative process. Like many not-so-noble customs in politics, it's justified as catastrophe retardant.

By acting as "SuperMayor," President Obama made himself look like someone who will bite at the bait. That may cost him more than the ignominy of being the figurehead for an Olympics bid that flopped.

In a way, it's a shame because Chicago's fourth place really wasn't his doing. If any blame deserves to be cast, it would be at the operatives who put the bid together. Given how "D" politics operates, though, it's likely they'll get off scot-free. Like it or not, jumping at the bait when politically involved does cost. As is often the case in politics, the beneficiaries end up being the chain-pullers…and vice-versa. ESR

Daniel M. Ryan dances with the Grim Reaper.

 

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