Chicago's failed bid to host the 2016 Olympics in the first round of voting caps a week of conservative attacks against President Obama for personally stumping on his home city's behalf.
How the International Olympic Committee's rejection of the Windy City's bid affects the politics surrounding Obama's trip to Copenhagen remains to be seen. But in the immediate aftermath, it has provided ample fodder for Republicans to further accuse the president of having wasted his time, skirted his responsibilities, and acted as a crony for some of his big-moneyed donors.
Upon being informed of the news, a gathering of conservatives at the Americans For Prosperity -- one of the main organizing groups behind the tea party protests -- erupted in applause. They cheered once more after they were told that Chicago had been eliminated during the first round of voting. The moment was captured on video (below) and reported by Hotline On Call:
Around the same time, RedState's Erick Erickson took glee in Chicago - and, by extension, Obama's - rejection.
"Hahahahaha," he wrote. "I thought the world would love us more now that Bush was gone. I thought if we whored ourselves out to our enemies, great things would happen. Apparently not. So Obama's pimped us to every two bit thug and dictator in the world, made promises to half the Olympic committee, and they did not even kiss him."
Conservative commentator Michelle Malkin, meanwhile, wrote that the news effectively ended the Obama campaign motto of "Yes We Can" by dawning in a new slogan: "No, You Can't."
"This is a big win and a massive relief for taxpayers," she wrote. "But Chicago cronies are not going to take this well. Gird your loins."
The National Review Online called the episode an "embarrassment for Obama," before adding the predictable conservative ribbing: "If he can't work his personal magic with the Olympians, why does he expect it to work with the Iranians?"
Rush Limbaugh called it "the worst day of his presidency," adding that Obama "has failed" and the entire episode was an illustration of Obama's "Mars-sized ego."
The Drudge Report -- topping them all -- blared the headline: "THE EGO HAS LANDED
WORLD REJECTS OBAMA: CHICAGO OUT IN FIRST ROUND."
It's an aggressive posture. But also, potentially, a risky one, not just because polling data showed that a vast majority of the country wanted America to host the games (though some were skeptical of the need for Obama to make a personal pitch). But also because it continues to produce the specter of conservatives bludgeoning the reputation of America's "second city."
Hours before Chicago's bid failed, The Plum Line reported that Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) was skirting questions about whether he supported Obama's decision to fly to Copenhagen. Kirk, mind you, is not just a rising star within GOP circles. He is the party's top candidate for Senate in Illinois.
And yet, it's fair to assume that Kirk's hands were somewhat tied on the issue. GOP leadership in the House had cast its lot against Chicago days before. Earlier this week, House Minority Leader John Boehner, (R-Ohio) said the president's decision to travel to Copenhagen raised questions about the White House's priorities. A few days before he spoke, RNC Chairman Michael Steele was equally pugnacious. "I think that what the president is doing is not necessarily helpful and doesn't, in my view instill the confidence in the American people that the focus is there on jobs, wealth creation and moving us beyond a recession to prosperity," he told a conference call of reporters.
The attacks were far more vicious from the media, whose conservative members used reports of gang violence in the streets of Chicago to paint the city as a cesspool of street thugs and political corruption. Fox News' Glenn Beck adopted a pained Italian accent to paint the Windy City as ruled by mob control. Beck's colleague, Sean Hannity, meanwhile, asked rhetorically if Chicago was really where "we want the Olympics taking place." On September 29, The Drudge Report ran a headline linking to an article about the death of a 16-year-old honor student in a gang fight: "OLYMPIC SPIRIT: VIDEO SHOWS BRUTAL GANG MURDER IN CHICAGO."
Taken separately, the criticism seemed like traditional, partisan-driven efforts to land a punch on the president. And in some respects, there were intellectual foundations for the charges. Even good government groups have wondered whether the big-moneyed donors who sit on Chicago's 2016 committee board played a role in Obama's decision to travel to Copenhagen.
Taken as a whole, however, the steady stream of Republican attacks raise as many questions about the GOP's strategy as they do about the president's. For starters: is it smart politics to argue that a major American city is unfit to host the Olympic games? More than one Democratic strategist has pointed out that, if Democrats had attacked George W. Bush for pushing Dallas as an Olympics host, they would immediately have been branded as unpatriotic.
Perhaps the better question is: will the voters respond positively to such charges? A poll conducted by Zogby International from Sept. 22 to 25 showed that 84 percent of Americans support having the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Chicago. And even after being attacked for several days straight, Obama had taken only a small hit for his decision to go to Copenhagen. A Rasmussen Reports poll released on Thursday, showed that 43 percent of adults thought it was "a bad idea for the President to go overseas at this time to help Chicago make its final presentation to the Olympic Committee." Thirty-six percent said it was a good idea, while 21 percent were not sure.