Wednesday, September 30, 2009
The Post asked political experts, athletes and others whether the president should travel to Denmark as part of the U.S. bid for the 2016 Olympic Games. Below are contributions from Tony Fratto, Grover Norquist, Joey Cheek and Ed Rogers.
Deputy assistant to President George W. Bush and deputy press secretary from September 2006 to January 2009
It's certainly a risk for President Obama to make a personal appeal for the Olympics in Denmark this week. If he succeeds, he'll win credit for bringing the prestigious event stateside. If he fails, critics will see it as a blow to the president's personal powers of persuasion. But whether or not the Olympic bid succeeds, the real risk is in the context of the weighty agenda on the president's desk -- health care; climate change; budget deficits; foreign policy crises in Iran, North Korea and Afghanistan. If the administration stumbles on any of these in the coming months, it will be easy to point back and say, "He should have been focused on X-issue instead of flying around the world on something as trivial as the Olympics."
There's another reason presidents haven't done this in the past: We're the United States of America, and presidents have never felt we needed to invest our leader's prestige for these things -- our private efforts have been more than sufficient.
But, as long as all the heads of state are attending, here's what I propose: a made-for-TV athletic competition for the rights to host the Games! The leaders -- from the United States, Spain, Brazil and Japan -- compete in four events of their choosing. I expect Obama takes Spain's King Juan Carlos in basketball, finishes third to Juan Carlos and Brazil's Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in soccer, but finishes no worse than second to Japan's Yukio Hatoyama in baseball. By collecting no worse than a first, two seconds and a third, President Obama could bring the Games to Chicago, fair and square -- and the TV advertising revenue could pay for the trip!
Let the Games begin!
White House staffer to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush; chairman of BGR Group
It is good that President Obama will travel to Copenhagen to make the case for Chicago to host the 2016 Olympics. I hope it introduces a new era of the U.S. president being a forthright advocate of American commercial interests. While the Olympics is bigger than just a business venture, it is important that the United States catch up with the realities of the competitive world marketplace. Other countries' political leaders aggressively sell their nation's products and solutions. America is falling behind.
I hope that the president sees making the pitch for Chicago to host the Games as not just a favor for his home town but, rather, as the start of a broader willingness to champion U.S. financial interests. If Obama is popular abroad, why not use that popularity to promote American jobs, products or tourism? We need to put an end to the idea of it being beneath the president to advocate on behalf of an American offering vs. a foreign commercial offering. If Obama makes the pitch and loses, he deserves thanks rather than hand-wringing by those who will flutter about the diminished presidency. The rest of the world is playing by one set of rules regarding what political leaders are willing to do to make a sale. We have been playing by an antiquated, ineffective set of rules. Go get 'em, Mr. President!
President of Americans for Tax Reform
There was too much Georgia in the Carter administration and way too much Texas in the Bush administration -- and there is already entirely too much Chicago in the Obama White House. Presidents should represent the entire country, and that includes taxpayers as well as the beneficiaries of corporate welfare -- tax dollars that flow to those who benefit from hosting projects such as the Olympics.
Obama told the United Nations that under his presidency, America's values and interests would take a back seat to the interests of the world community -- but evidently not when it comes to bringing the pork home to Chicago. Let's be nice and let some other country have the Olympics -- instead of taxing Americans and sending them foreign aid this year.
2006 Olympic gold medalist in speed skating; co-founder and president of Team Darfur
An Olympic bid is a murky thing; I am not convinced that President Obama's presence will make much difference. But other world leaders will be in attendance. Indeed, all of the other competing cities will be spending millions of dollars and doing everything within their power to win. No one should be surprised that the president will be making this trip.
As an Olympic gold medalist, I feel the Olympics serve two purposes. The first is as a global forum for using sport as a tool to promote peace (I began my work as an advocate for Darfur as an Olympian -- mainly because I thought this ideal had been forgotten), and the second is to showcase the competitiveness of athletes and the host nation. Given America's role in the world and the great things that can be achieved through the Olympics, Obama should make this effort.