The next Olympic Games are still a few months off, the Winter fest in Canada in 2010, but the good ole USA has already won it's first gold medal. In the naivete competition we are the Usain Bolt of nations.
Following Rio's selection as the host of the 2016 Summer Games, the outpouring of "shock and awe" in the U.S., as one American pundit put it, was tsunami-like. In fact, the reportage of Chicago's "defeat" surpassed that of an actual tsunami in the Samoan Islands. Roll that DVR of nightly newscasts from Fox to CNN to MSNBC to any of the three "majors" and that's what you're going to see.
"My goodness what happened?" an earnest Charlie Gibson asked. "Chicago was the favorite," said Katie and Brian.
Really? Says who? You? And they're off and running!
Turns out the Olympics and the politics that go with them have been a particularly favorite topic of mine. My first Olympic 'experience' came in 1960, and my professional reporting on them began in the early 1970s. Remember the Denver Winter Olympics in 1976? Go ahead; look it up. For over 30 years I've either reported on or attended the Olympic Games. I've watched as East German women with a distinct five o'clock shadow have put the shot farther than most of their "male" competitors. I've teared up a little when the USA hockey team beat Russia in Lake Placid, and I've watched in awe as John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their fists in defiance. Can I tell you a secret? Chicago was never the favorite, even if Oprah thought it was.
The reasons are not difficult to figure out. All it takes is a quick understanding of how the International Olympic Committee votes, who the 100 IOC voters are, and which way the international wind is blowing. It is a political competition, not a sporting one. It is a game of intrigue, and one that is more or less corruptible if you know how to play it. One of the few times a U.S. city actually tried to compete was with the Salt Lake City bid. They won the Games, and ended up with officials going to jail. We can also blame that effort for the ascendency of Mitt Romney. Take that anyway you like.
Following the SLC bidding debacle, the IOC reformed its rules, but there was no washing away the bad taste it had in its mouth from the pounding the American press and Congress gave it in the aftermath. I could go on, but you can find this all out for yourself if you're interested. And that's the point. Why didn't Charlie, and Katie and Brian and all those other folks know it? Because either they didn't bother to look, or they didn't want to know. Naivete. It's so much more fun to buy the hype than it is to explore the reality.
Which brings us to the President. A couple of things first. Whether he goes to Denmark or not, Chicago is not going to win. So in a "damned if he does, damned if he doesn't" scenario, he went. Made a quick speech, kissed his wife and went on to other, some would say, more important things. No worries. Second, you should know for purposes of this piece that Barack Obama was not my first choice for President. I've dressed left my entire life; the first political discussions I can remember are listening to my father try to explain the policies of Adlai Stevenson and why there were good for America.
But experience has taught me through the terms of now ten Presidents that what really counts is what gets done, not which party does it. So while thrilled with the elegance, thoughtfulness, clarity and apparent honesty of Barack Obama, I was looking for someone whom I thought could get things done in Washington D.C. I do not have the luxury of as many years as I once did to hope change happens, and after wandering in the political wasteland as a country for the last decade I was yearning for action. LBJ can pick his dog up by the ears for all I care, as long as he gets the Civil Rights Act passed and signed. You catch my drift?
My candidate did not win the nomination and in the "pick one or the other" world of American Democracy, we, the people, selected the best man available for the job. He won big. He has a majority in Congress, even if the final piece is a comedian from Minnesota, so let's get something done. He's the favorite! He's going to change things! He's from Chicago and you know they're going to have the Olympics! Oh.
As noble as the desire is for reaching across the aisle and bi-partisanship it's simply time to make things happen. As Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican, of South Carolina said, "We lost, and there are consequences." And no matter what those "nattering nabobs of negativism" like Limbaugh, Beck, and O'Reilly like to think or say, or how many of their ilk can be stuffed in that right turning only clown car, and no matter how virulent those incessant forwarded emails are from your relatives regarding every move Obama makes or doesn't make, and no matter how it might look, I say if you have a hammer, use it. And in that is likely the President's biggest test. Can he control his own toolbox? Can he get Pelosi and Reid to deliver? You honestly believe in a public option for health care, Mr. President? Make it happen. Grab your dog by the ears. Go to Iran in a bold gesture. But let's not be naive. The Olympic oath is a wonderful thing, but do you remember the oath or do you remember Michael Phelps?
Oh, one suggestion for Chicago if it ever decides to bid again. Have Oprah block off a street in Copenhagen and give everybody in the audience a new car. Of course, only invite the IOC.
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