The GOP cheered wildly at President Obama's Olympic bid folly. In a rarity, they actually got some of the reasons they cheered for his defeat right. The games would have been a nightmare for Chicago. There was the excessive cost, massive hikes in taxes, a city rife with corruption and cronyism, no evidence the games would do much to generate jobs and business growth in the most impoverished areas of the city, and the blatant impropriety of a president plugging his own home city.
The GOP also got it right in knocking Obama for wasting time chasing Olympic windmills when his time should be spent on health care reform, fixing the economy, confronting the Iran nuclear threat, and doubling his efforts to wind down two crippling wars. The GOP offers no real solutions on any of these problems, and they happily used Obama's Olympic flop to bludgeon him and his administration for failure. But that doesn't let Obama off the hook for self-diverting his time and attention from these crucial issues.
That's not the only reason to give the GOP a one time prop for getting it right about Obama and his Olympic pipe dream. In the last year more than forty young blacks have been stabbed, shot, and bludgeoned to death within miles, and some within blocks, of Obama's home. The violence stirred a mild national outcry when a cell phone video showed 16-year-old honors student Derrion Albert being bludgeoned to death on a Chicago street. Before the Albert killing, black community leaders and activists had begged, pleaded with and implored Obama to speak out on the violence. Apart from a few oblique platitudes and moral finger wagging at a black church and later at an NAACP convention about the perils of the street, the silence from the White House has been deafening on the violence.
The murders literally in Obama's own backyard are more than just a shame and an embarrassment to him. They represent a missed teaching moment for Obama. They were a tailor made opportunity to connect the dots and show just how failing public schools, Great Depression unemployment highs among young black males, soaring incarceration rates, the paucity of recreation facilities, breakdown in family support services, and the unwillingness of public agencies and private businesses to invest in job skills, training, and education programs for youth is the direct line to the shocking murder of innocents such as Albert.
The paid lobbyists, high profile PR firms, well-heeled corporate donors, high powered political connections, and major civic and industry groups happily designated Obama as their point man on the Olympics. They had the political muscle and money to send him scurrying on a wild goose chase thousands of miles away to plug the Olympic Games.
Meanwhile, the Derrion Alberts who are at mortal risk from street violence only a few blocks from the president's home are forced to play a much deadlier game: a game called survival. The GOP may have cheered Obama's Olympic smack down for the wrong reason, but the cheer was well-deserved.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His forthcoming book, How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge (Middle Passage Press) will be released in January, 2010.