The Problem with Obama's IOC Appeal

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I never really had any investment in whether or not the 2016 Olympics went to Chicago, Rio, or wherever (sounds like it'll be Rio). I suppose if Chicago had won the bid it may have been good for the city, the state and so on.

And I think the First Lady's appeal on behalf of Chicago made perfect sense—her story and background is compelling, as is her familial attachment to the city of Chicago. It made perfect sense.

I don't however understand why President Obama felt it was prudent to take such an active and passionate role in this appeal. He must have known that if the appeal fell short—as it apparently has—his political opponents would jump on it as yet another example of rhetoric being trumped by the hard realities of global politics. Words alone, you can hear them say, won't compel other world leaders to follow you and like you.

Kind of like Iran on nuclear enrichment. Kind of like China and Russia on sanctions. Kind of like Israel on settlements. Kind of like Nicolas Sarkozy on nuclear disarmament. Not really the week—or the month, for that matter— to add to one's checklist of futile rhetorical appeals.

Steve Clemons wonders if this marks the end of "the Obama effect." Only if that "effect" entails moving mountains. Or in this case, an Olympic committee.

I don't know if Obama's foreign policy vision was ever quite so ambitious as his domestic campaign rhetoric. I think success for Obama abroad will come primarily by grounding the more ambitious (and often careless) adventurism of his predecessor. This means, among other things, sticking to the pragmatic realism that underpins his policies.

But I believe the President's foreign policy appeal is actually the inverse of his domestic one. Yesterday's statement on Iran is a good example: reserved, cautious and realistic. He won't win too many points for that from his political rivals, but it means a heck of a lot more than some trivial Olympics appeal.

UPDATE: Ben Smith raises a good point. You have to wonder who was feeding the President information on this committee's decision making. Clearly, the White House believed this thing was close enough that it warranted Obama's in-person appeal.

Do heads roll?

(Credit: AP Photos)

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