Steele: Obama Olympics trip "not necessary" -- but not necessarily a mistake
Republican National Chairman Michael S. Steele said today that President Barack Obama's upcoming trip to Copenhagen is "nice" and "a noble idea," but not essential business for the president.
Steele began a brief telephone news conference by criticizing Obama's lack of focus on the biggest problem facing the country: weakness in the economy, which Steele said is still in recession.
The former Maryland lieutenant governor said he had watched Obama push an economic stimulus plan, then "lurch into cap-and-trade, and then into health care," and now he's "pitching the Olympics in Copenhagen."
In answer to a reporter's question, Steele said it was "a noble idea for the president to pitch his home city, Chi-town" and that America "would be more than honored to host the Olympics." But Steele went on to say that "at a time of war" and recession, "this trip, while nice, is not necessary for the president."
Obama plans to leave Washington on Thursday in order to personally lobby members of the International Olympic Committee the next morning at their decision-making meeting in Denmark.
The overnight trip is seen as a risky political gamble for a president currently enmeshed in a number of difficult issues, from pushing an embattled Democratic health care plan through Congress to combatting Iran's nuclear ambitions and choosing a future course for the war in Afghanistan.
Steele said the president should be focusing on creating jobs now, not "job opportunities seven years from now" in Chicago. He said that First Lady Michelle Obama should have been the leading salesperson for the U.S. Olympic bid.
But when pressed on whether he regarded the president's trip as a mistake, Steele demurred.
"Mistake is in the eye of the holder," he said, adding that he didn't know the judgment behind Obama's decision to go.
Asked again, if in his eyes at least Obama was making a mistake, Steele responded, "I gave you my answer."