The Denmark debacle

     I can't believe he did it.

     I can't believe President Obama, who understands the new world in which we live, made the gaffe of going to Denmark - to pitch a Chicago Olympics bid that we were bound to lose. No one should have been surprised that Chicago only got 18 votes and was knocked out in the first round.

     I argued against the idea of Obama's going to Denmark with colleagues, who were all convinced it was the right move. After all, other heads of state were going. But any finger on the global pulse made clear that this was not the year for an American bid, irrespective of Obama's international shine.

     Think about it. One: The last time the United States got the nod, in Salt Lake City, there was a scandal involved that compelled the IOCC to change its entire system of choosing winners. Why would the IOCC want to summon up memories of those last, misbegotten U.S. games?

     Two: in a globalized world, a rising power like Brazil - which also has a superstar leader named Lula - was a far more attractive choice than a hyperpower whose gloss was tarnished by the economic crisis. Three: in a globalized world, where South America has never hosted an Olympics (and the United States has done so many times) Rio was the obvious choice. 

      Four: there was no good reason for Obama to be promoting a US venue at a time of economic downturn. Who needs the Olympics anyway?  We've been there, done that. And almost every city that gets the nod winds up losing money.  Obama himself said two weeks ago he had no time to go to Denmark because he had more important things to do - like work on health care or his Afghan strategy. He was right. 

      The president let good judgment be swayed by his Chicago friends, such as advisor Valerie Jarrett, and they put him in the embarrassing position of pitching a product that couldn't be sold. They risked tarnishing his international image as a leader whom much of the world admires, an image that is one of his key strengths. For what? So Chicago could go broke?

      Message to Obama: tell your friends to keep their ideas to themselves in the future. And keep your eye on the ball.  

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