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No Gold for Obama

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By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 6, 2009; 9:48 AM

In the end, President Obama's decision to visit Copenhagen produced squat in terms of the Olympics.

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So much for all those gasbags who went on TV and said the fix must be in or Obama wouldn't have made the trip. The Windy City didn't even survive the first round.

The eleventh-hour drop-by, designed to reinforce the daunting duo of Oprah and Michelle, may well be viewed as a tactical blunder. So be it.

But that's very different from some of the carping I was hearing before this morning's decision. That it was a waste of money. That other issues were more important. That it was all about Chicago.

This seems to be to fall into the category of the-guy-can't-catch-a-break. If he landed the Olympic Games, then suited up and won the triathlon, some people would say it was rigged. If he jumped in the pool and beat Michael Phelps, his detractors would say he was all wet.

First, it's expensive for presidents to travel. When you start carping about the jet fuel involved, it means you've got nothing else.

Second, the idea that Obama can't focus on vital issues because of an 18-hour trip is hogwash. It's not like Air Force One isn't loaded with plenty of communications gear, or that he's hanging out at Tivoli Gardens.

Third, was it just about Utah when Salt Lake hosted the Olympics? Isn't it a good thing for our country as a whole? I can see why some folks in the Windy City did not want it, and sometimes it can be a financial burden, but this is hardly a parochial Illinois issue.

The president decided to go for the gold. He came up empty. But I don't see why he should be kneecapped for trying.

At the Daily Beast, Nicolle Wallace, a former Bush adviser and McCain campaign official, won't even give Obama a bronze:

"I love the Olympics. And I love the idea of an American city -- any American city -- being awarded the 2016 Summer Olympics. I also happen to believe that the president of the United States is always the president -- no matter where he is. He does not need to be holed up in the Oval Office to do his job, so I don't buy the argument that President Obama will be skipping out on his day job by traveling to Copenhagen.

"But there are big risks for Obama in making the trip -- and they have nothing to do with not winning the bid. The president seems to have forgotten the lessons that he helped teach an entire generation of political observers and operatives: Words matter, and so do appearances. President Obama will subject himself to three potentially damaging lines of attack when he boards the plane to Copenhagen.


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