It seems like any action (or inaction) by President Obama, spawns another “non-controversy” complete with a new surge of manufactured rage. Sometimes…the issue doesn’t involve the President’s actions at all, as is the case with recent clips that surfaced…showing schoolchildren mentioning Obama in songs they performed as part of Black History Month back in February. Fox News and other members of the right-wing media apparatus were quick to label the clips “unprecedented” and “indoctrination“…despite the fact that the President was certainly in no way responsible, the clips were clearly inoffensive and represented positive behavior in schoolchildren (we WANT them singing about studying hard and helping their country), and similar clips of schoolchildren singing about former President Bush also existed.
And now, just another example that the right will literally grasp at ANY subject to serve as a platform for their contempt: The Olympics.
Plans had already been in the works for First Lady Michelle Obama to attend the meeting of the International Olympic Committee in Denmark, in hopes of swaying IOC voters towards selecting Chicago, Illinois as the home for the 2016 Summer Olympics. As the voting date drew closer, it became apparent that Chicago was in a tight race with Rio de Janeiro, Brazil…Madrid, Spain…and Tokyo, Japan. At present, the IOC seems to be leaning towards Chicago, since it takes a lot of money to host the Olympics, and the committee feels a bit more secure (given the worldwide recession) in picking a location in the United States. However, due to the complicated and political voting process, it is still (literally) anybody’s game. The decision was made: President Obama would also fly in to Copenhagen on Friday, the day of the vote, when he and the other countries’ representatives would each be given 45 minutes to speak before the voting process begins.
And THAT’S when the latest faux conspiracy was born…
Fox News‘ talking heads (Hannity/O’Reilly/Beck) went into immediate overdrive. They asked: With two wars, a recession, and a health care debate going on…does the President really have time to be jetting to Denmark to try to lobby for the Olympics to be held in America? On Sean Hannity’s show, guest Michelle Malkin went one step further in suggesting that the entire effort was merely a ploy by Obama to line the pockets of corrupt Chicago “cronies:”
The White House’s response was simple and elegant: they posted an item-by-item “Reality Check” responding to each ridiculous claim, and in each response they identified the claim’s source (whether a Fox personality, or a guest on a Fox show) by name. Here is that blog…
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele also tried to level criticism at the decision for the President to make the trip: perhaps not realizing that construction and planning for the 2016 Olympics would have to start IMMEDIATELY, Steele made the statement, “If the priority is the Olympics in seven years, okay, then tell the nation that’s the priority and that’s what we should be focused on because we’ll create jobs then and we won’t worry about it between now and 2016.“ White House Press Secretary Gibbs provided a response to Steele’s noticeably snarky attack:
Of course, there are some obvious FACTS that reveal just how petty and wrong-headed these attacks are:
1 - The entire trip is going to take 18 hours…during most of which, Obama will be on Air Force One and able to conduct other presidential business. I think he can spare the time.
2 - This is not unusual. In the past, whenever countries are in a close race to obtain the vote, Presidents and Prime Ministers of these countries would OFTEN attend the IOC meeting. These appeals can be very VERY influential in terms of garnering last-minute IOC voter support.
3 - Anybody who still thinks the Olympics are only about sports…has not been paying attention. Hosting the Olympics is extremely prestigious and DOES have an impact on a country’s standing in the world and foreign affairs. For one thing…it could help a country that has lost some “good will” in the eyes of the international community (hint hint) gain some of it back.
4 - If done properly…it can generate a TON of revenue. China, was a bad example…they built huge, expensive, temporary structures, and as a result cut into profits. Athens, also a bad example…had huge cost overruns, most notably to overhaul their subway system, roads, trains, and other infrastructure. Atlanta did a much much better job…in fact, they even had the wisdom AFTER the Olympics to repurpose the Olympic housing as dorms for the Georgia Institute of Technology and Georgia State University. As it stands, Chicago already has strong infrastructure, an huge international airport, and plenty of stadiums and venues ALREADY BUILT. BEST CASE: The Chicago 2016 group estimates that $22.5 billion dollars could be generated. MIDDLE OF THE ROAD: Other experts suggest that the $3.8 billion (with a $500 million “buffer”) will likely not be enough…but that the likely benefits STILL outweigh the risks. WORST CASE: A study by the Anderson Economic Group says the Chicago 2016 projections that the Olympics would generate the equivalent of 12 Super Bowls, and that the increased tourism would net the equivalent of 70 Super Bowls…are too optimistic. The group sites that potential cost overruns and smaller revenues could put the Chicago taxpayers at risk…but that the long-term benefits are still substantial.
5 - Regardless of how much the Olympics cost, or produced in revenues…one thing is for sure: it would create JOBS. Yes JOBS, glorious JOBS. This point is certainly not lost on Mayor Daley, who says that the new jobs should be seen as the true benefit of hosting the games. Estimates say that 315,000 new jobs would be created, 172,000 of them in Chicago…and those jobs would generate new income equaling $11.2 BILLION.
6 - Lastly, contrary to commentators on Fox and Michael Steele, who rather naively seem to think that jobs for the 2016 Olympics wouldn’t be created until 2016…many jobs would be immediately created, with more jobs created each year leading up to 2016. File this little fact under “D” for “Duh.”
But as always, the people attempting to create controversy and outrage…have little use for these obvious facts, studies, and elements of common sense. The outrage itself is a yet another blind, unreasoning response to a president that these people simply despise. To think that these critics really care about Obama supposedly “shortchanging” other issues and crises…is to be misled. The Olympics is a wonderful, inspiring, national pride-generating event…and the real reason the right-wing protests, is that they can’t bear the thought of Barack Obama bringing it home.