The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Fiercely Competitive?

An editorial in The New York Times (the most pro-Obama daily in the country) gently suggested that the President’s sales pitch for a Chicago Olympics in 2016 was, well, politically ill-advised:
We would like to congratulate Rio de Janeiro for winning the right to host the 2016 Summer Olympics. It will be the first time that the Games are held in South America, and it is a fitting tribute to Brazil’s growing stature. That said, we have to ask: What was President Obama thinking when he flew off to Copenhagen to lobby the International Olympic Committee on behalf of Chicago?

The Times then went on to provide a possible reason for Obama’s unprecedented direct involvement:
As for why Mr. Obama went — especially if he wasn’t sure Chicago would win — here are two possible explanations: One, Mr. Obama, and his White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, another Chicagoan, love a good competition; the other is that they have a tad too much confidence in Mr. Obama’s hortatory powers.
We like having an articulate, fiercely competitive president, especially one with such a strong moral compass. But guys, if you’re going to roll the dice, next time make sure the stakes are worth it.

Personally, I’m not particularly concerned about the President’s trip to Copenhagen. I don’t think it made political sense, but unlike those on the Right who have become apoplectic about everything Barack Obama does, I tend to agree with the relatively conciliatory position of The Wall Street Journal (a daily that is much less friendly to the President):
We also won't join those who pounded President Obama for taking a day to travel to Copenhagen to underscore Chicago's bid, claiming he had somehow shirked the pressing issues of health care and yesterday's dismal September jobs report. If the country is going to unravel because a President is not in Washington for 24 hours, we're in worse shape than we thought. Some also fault Mr. Obama for investing the prestige of his office in getting the games, as no President has before, but then Mr. Obama is more closely identified with Chicago than other Presidents have been with other bidding cities.

If Mr. Obama and the White House made a mistake, it was in their apparently boundless faith that somehow Mr. Obama's personal popularity would carry the day. As if, merely by seeing the rock star in person, the delegate from, say, Egypt would abandon his simmering dislike for America, forget all the dinners and deals cut with the Rio Committee, and reward Chicago. In that sense, the Olympic defeat is a relatively painless reminder that interests trump charm or likability in world affairs. Better to relearn this lesson in a fight over a sporting event than over nuclear missiles.

If President Obama and his senior advisors use the Copenhagen trip as a “teaching moment” the time spent on Air Force One will have been well worth it. If the President learns that nations vote and act from local self-interest, the United States will have been well served in Copenhagen. If he recognizes that star power alone rarely translates into solid foreign policy (or Olympic votes, for that matter), he will grow as a leader.

But if he insists on a continuation of mea culpas for his own country in the mistaken belief that it will earn us friends and serve our national interests; if he continues to believe the sophomoric notion expressed in his recent UN speech: "It is my deeply held belief that in the year 2009--more than at any point in human history--the interests of nations and peoples are shared," when in fact, our adversaries share virtually none of our core beliefs or interests, we’re in for a very rough and very dangerous future.