Policy & Strategy

Graham stands by call for Winter Olympics boycott over Snowden, Syria

Despite pushback from the White House,  Speaker John
Boehner (R-Ohio) and the U.S. Olympic Committee, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)
is not backing down from his call for the U.S. to consider boycotting the 2014
Winter Olympics in Russia.

Graham said Wednesday that he wasn’t surprised by the negative
reaction to his comments, but said something had to be done to alter Russia’s
attitudes and policy toward Syria, Iran and National Security Agency leaker Ed Snowden.

“Do I want to boycott the Olympics, absolutely not,” Graham
told reporters. But if Russia continues to support Syrian
President Bashar Assad’s regime with weapons, provide cover to the Iran’s
nuclear program and grant Snowden asylum, Graham said, the U.S. should not attend.

“Would I accept an invitation of the Russian president? Heck no,” he said.

Graham first
suggested
to The Hill on Tuesday that the U.S. should consider boycotting
the Olympics if Moscow grants Snowden asylum.

“I would. I would just send the Russians the most
unequivocal signal I could send them,” Graham said.

The South Carolina senator’s comments quickly ran into resistance.
Boehner on Wednesday said he was “dead
wrong
,” while the U.S. Olympic Committee said that boycotts don’t
work
and would only punish the athletes.

White House press secretary Jay Carney initially wouldn’t
say whether the U.S. might boycott the Olympics in Sochi, Russia, but when he was pressed he said that would be a bad idea.

“I’m not going to engage in speculation about that, and
the Olympics are a long way off,” Carney said.

Graham said that the Obama administration has “no clue” how
to deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He argued that widespread Syrian
violence couldn’t prompt the Obama administration to change Moscow’s attitude
toward Syria, “so let’s talk about sports.”

“I love the Olympics, but I love world peace, too,” Graham
said.

“Would you have the Olympics in Iran? I doubt many people
would say that’s a good idea,” he added. “I don’t think Russia is as bad as
Iran, but [the Olympics] would be a great propaganda tool for them to showcase
a regime that I think has really drifted in a bad way and is insulting to our
country by harboring Snowden.”

Tags Boehner Lindsey Graham
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