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October 2, 2009

Obama sacked; Steele piles on...carefully


It is a cardinal rule of politics: Never murder your opponent when he's in the process of committing suicide.

But sometimes, the opportunity is simply too good to pass up.

Is that the case with Barack Obama's failed effort to bring the 2016 summer Olympics to his hometown?

Some Republican strategists warned, in the aftermath of the International Olympic Committee's shootdown of Chicago, that it would be a mistake to pile on. But they seemed to be in the minority.

Republican National Chairman Michael Steele, who had been preparing for Obama to lose, was only too pleased to rub it in, though he did it in a careful way.

“While I am disappointed with the IOC's decision, I look forward to the president returning stateside so that he can refocus his efforts on the growing unemployment crisis that was highlighted by today’s monthly jobs report," he said in a statement. "Our country needs the president’s undivided attention on the urgent issues facing American families today: rising unemployment, soaring health care costs, winning the war in Afghanistan and dealing with Iran’s nuclear threat.”

Separately, the Republican National Committee issued a "research briefing" with headlines like "Obama Prioritizes Chicago Olympics Bid Over War In Afghanistan" and "Weighing His Priorities, Obama Chose To Spend His Time on Olympics Bid."

Also: "Obama's Time Commitment To Lead Military Commander In Afghanistan? Three Meetings In Four Months. . . . Obama's Time Commitment To Olympics? 5 Video Tapes, New White House Office, South Lawn Event, Lobbying Efforts At UN And G-20, Numerous Phone Calls, And $112,000 Flight To Copenhagen With 2 Cabinet Officials And A U.S. Senator."

Earlier this week, Steele criticized the president's overseas lobbying trip. He called it unnecessary, though he pointedly refused to call it a mistake.

The Republican chairman kept up the criticism as the IOC vote neared. Earlier today, reacting to the latest increase in U.S. unemployment figures, Steele took note of the president's Danish adventure.

"As President Obama travels to Copenhagen to bring the Summer Olympics to his hometown seven years from now, Americans back home are increasingly concerned they won't have a job seven months from now as they see more and more of their neighbors and friends lose jobs today," the former Maryland lieutenant governor said in a statement issued hours before the IOC voted Chicago out in the first round.

Once Chicago got cut, top Obama advisor David Axelrod leapt onto the cable news nets, trying to spin his boss out of the situation. The Democratic National Committee circulated a Politico item that asked whether the Republicans were rooting against America.

Everyone could probably have saved their breath. Whatever damage had occurred was already done.

Seemingly minor incidents can have outsized political impact on the reputation of a new president. Will this be one of those moments for Obama?

The last Democratic president, Bill Clinton, got stung for a long while over an expensive haircut he received aboard Air Force One on a runway at Los Angeles International Airport, several months after taking office. Media reports at the time claimed that air traffic had been delayed as a result, though, in fact, that wasn't the case.

However, the widely publicized incident helped deepen negative impressions of Clinton, who was already viewed by some of his critics as arrogant and self-indulgent.

Obama's Copenhagen debacle could also have similarly negative ramifications. Or not.

You make the call.

The reality is that the trip took him out of the country for only one work day, and Obama used that time, in part, to meet with Denmark's prime minister and confer with the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan. Still, he left himself wide open for opponents to turn the failed venture against him (an eventuality that the president obviously discounted in deciding to go).

As the story plays out, in the media and in conversations among everyday people, will it: (A) feed an existing line of criticism that Obama is naive about the dynamics of power relationships, whether the arena is international sports or Washington politics; (B) weaken him by demonstrating that he has a vastly exagerrated view of his own ability to persuade others with his presence and his words; (C) diminish his authority and the prestige of his office because he took on a high-profile international mission that was actually parochial in nature and hardly presidential in any case; (D) and this is the one the Republicans had already been laying the groundwork for--prove that he isn't doing the job he was elected to perform, devoting himself to a trivial pursuit while the country faces enormous problems that require his full attention; (E) all of the above; or (F) none of the above?

Your vote?


On the return flight to Washington, aboard Air Force One, the president's chief spokesman took a swing at Steele, when asked to respond to Republican criticism of Obama's trip.

Here's the exchange:

Question: Robert, some of the Republicans had argued that this trip was not wise, given everything on the President's plate. Could you respond to that argument? And also this meeting with McChrystal (the U.S. commander in Afghanistan) --

MR. GIBBS: I want to know what was Michael Steele doing about 1:50 a.m. when we landed -- 1:50 a.m. in the morning when we landed in Denmark.

Q (Inaudible.)

MR. GIBBS: I can only imagine that somebody -- they probably had a press release queued up that said, if Chicago didn't get the Olympics and the President didn't get to go. You know, there's people trying to solve problems and there's people playing games, and I think we know where a bunch of that is.

Posted by Paul West at 4:29 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Michael Steele


"and this is the one the Republicans had already been laying the groundwork for--prove that he isn't doing the job he was elected to perform, devoting himself to a trivial pursuit while the country faces enormous problems that require his full attention"

And how has the GOP been helping him with addressing these problems?

It's easy to criticise, this effort would have brought a lot of money to the US. The importent thing to remember is that the GOP has done nothing to help this country and have no real ideas on how to help. They are actively rooting for the failure of America so they can use it to get back in power.

OBAMA is a Failure inside AMERICA and now outside AMERICA, Dont you think Americans are too nice to him, grow up guys...

I applaud President Obama's efforts. I can find fault in
much he has done (the debt for one) but this was an honest attempt to bring jobs to America. Is this what politics in America has become-24/7 bashing. We are in this together
both Republicans and Democrats. Too bad that message has been lost on both sides of the debate.

"Committing suicide'? Are you krazy, Paul? been listening to Limbaugh's "the ego has landed' when you wrote this drivel ?... Obama tried to get some jobs in the midwest and the Republicans applaud the failure. Previously they have advocated a boycott of US car firms that have received gov't support.
Steele and the Republican Party are all counter punching and no long term strategy, or even possesors of any serious policy for economic recovery

Who listens, no, who has ever heard of Michael Steele?

...come on now, after 8 years of complete stupidity, we have someone who knows his job.
we should applaud him for at least TRYING to get the games in Chicago. He did not LOSE anything..Losing? thats what happened to the GOP at the last election...get over it!

I am a 55 year old/young man, and have been a political junkie since I can remember_have never witnessed such a gross display of dis-loyalty to one's country by any political party as I have by the GOP in the last 9 months!

Eight years of the embarassment called Bush and Cheney should keep any decent Republican quiet for a very long time... Now they give us losers Steele ( not steal) Phalin(not Failen) and maybe bobby (bad haircut) /(which way is the wind blowing) !!! Any decent Republican should just keep quiet for awhile and recover some of their lost dignity

You guys should really be looking at WHY? This was all about trying to impress. The man needs to stay at home and solve the problems at hand.


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About the bloggers
Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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