Blame it on Rio, not Obama

In a post from earlier this evening, John shows how various leftists have exaggerated the extent to which conservatives took pleasure from the fact that Chicago was not selected to host the 2016 Olympics. As John notes, the left is relying on a small number of examples.
Nonetheless, it’s unfortunate that there are any examples at all. If a crowd at the “Defending the American Dream Summit” actually did applaud the announcement that Chicago finished last in the balloting, what possessed the members of that crowd to do it? The lefties have a point: since when do conservatives root for the U.S. to finish last?
And why would Newt Gingrich proclaim: “President Obama fails to get the Olympics while unemployment goes to 9.8% …America needs focused leadership.” Surely, President Obama’s failed foray into IOC politics has nothing to do with the current or future unemployment rate. This is the kind of cheap shot that infuriated me when President Bush was on the receiving end. I find it no more palatable when the target is Obama.
Various conservative bloggers find themselves arguing that getting the Olympics isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. We’re told that lots of folks in Chicago think hosting the event would have been a pain in the neck; that the economic benefits would have been insubstantial and/or short-lived; that the Olympics are mostly an ego trip for politicians, etc. These arguments are unsatisfactory at a number of levels.
First, they don’t, and cannot, explain the pleasure some conservatives took in Chicago’s failed bid. At best they would explain indifference. Second, I find it difficult to believe that conservatives would be taking the same line if a Republican president had sought to bring the Olympics to a U.S. city.
Third, conservatives who downplay the Olympics are overlooking the pleasure that a large number of Americans would have derived from attending them. That pleasure would not have been confined to residents of the Chicago area. For one thing, Americans from all over the land would come to Chicago. For another, the games wouldn’t have been played only there; for example, the 1984 and 1996 Olympics brought high quality soccer to venues throughout the U.S.
In addition, the host country usually does well, and a strong Olympic performance is a source of pride for millions of Americans. President Reagan built his speech to the 1984 Republican Convention around the success the U.S. had enjoyed that year at the Olympics (he actually overdid it a bit considering that the Soviet Union and its close allies had boycotted the Games).
Reagan understood the morale boost associated with hosting, and doing well at, the Olympics. I suspect that those conservatives who took pleasure from Obama’s failure to land the event understand it too; they just didn’t want that boost to occur on Obama’s watch. As I said, this is unfortunate.
Some conservatives have taken a different line of attack. They argue that Obama made a hash out of his effort to bring the Olympics here by making a case that was Obama-centric rather than America or Chicago-centric. They also note that he relied too much on his own popularity and charm, as he perceives them.
In my view, these are fair criticisms of Obama, so long as we keep in mind that Chicago’s bid did not fail because of the case Obama made. It is clear now that these Olympics were destined for Rio. First, there was a strong sense that it was South America’s turn; second, Rio is said to have put together a great bid (Chicago’s apparently was poor for reasons having nothing to do with Obama).
Perhaps Obama should have realized in advance that this was a lost cause and therefore not expended the small amount of capital he gave to the effort. But I’ll never criticize an American president for going to bat for America. And I doubt there will be many things Obama goes to bat for that I will consider more worthwhile than bringing the Olympics here.

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