By Cheri Jacobus - 10/01/09 10:14 PM EDT
No other U.S. president has ever personally lobbied for the Olympics to be held in this country. Even President Obama claimed just days ago that he would not go to the Olympics meeting, because he was so “firmly committed to making real the promise of quality, affordable healthcare for every American.”
But why? Why place so much political capital on the line for something so trifling? (At least when compared to healthcare, the war in Afghanistan, Iranian nukes.) Certainly it isn’t simple hometown pride, since half of Chicagoans do not want the Olympics to be held in their Windy City. Many are engaging in spirited protests.
Obama’s curious decision to travel to Copenhagen begs the question: What — or, more precisely, whom — is he doing this for? With far more critical issues on the table, half the citizens of Chicago against hosting the Olympics, and with a very real risk that losing out on the Olympics after putting so much on the line could prove seriously detrimental to Obama’s credibility both at home and around the world, this trip is, for lack of a better phrase, a fairly stupid move. Who exercised such power and influence over Barack ObamaBarack ObamaDems discuss dropping Wasserman Schultz Mellman: Parsing the polls LA mayor: 'Donald Trump will not win California' MORE that he would make this decision that trivializes the presidency? And why do they possess this power?
Mayor Richard Daley pulls the strings. He wants the power and prestige that bringing the Olympics to Chicago would grant him and knows how to call in favors. Former Daley staffers include Obama’s close adviser and Olympics czar Valerie Jarrett, David Axelrod and even the first lady. How convenient.
Will hosting the Olympics benefit all of Chicago? Or will the money and accolades suspiciously go only to a few cronies — namely, those with influence over Obama, earned by greasing the political skids for him along his path to power, the Chicago way? It’s a safe bet Obama would not welcome or invite the scrutiny on such fertile breeding grounds for corruption unless he was tethered to forces stronger than the good judgment we assume is inherent, at least in some small dose, in any presidency. Whether the 2016 Olympic Games are held in Chicago or elsewhere, Obama’s seemingly inexplicable Copenhagen trip does, indeed, raise questions.
Jacobus, president of Capitol Strategies PR, has managed congressional campaigns, worked on Capitol Hill and is an adjunct professor at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management. She appears on CNN, MSNBC and FOX News as a GOP strategist.