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October 2, 2009

The Obamas: The “Shame” of Copenhagen

This AP photo of the Obamas in Copenhagen in support of Chicago's Olympic bid is just one example of how the media is using the decision to frame Michelle and Barack as failures.

So, the media is using the failed Chicago Olympic bid — and the pictures accompanying it — to wring the necks of the Obamas?

Maybe it’s all just Friday afternoon vapidness, but it’s truly impressive how the media is using this “loss,” this “blow,” this shock this afternoon (check it out) as an opportunity to question Obama’s momentum, his mojo, even his judgement.   

This quote from the NYT is, what should I say, “best in show”?

Rarely has a president put his credibility on the line on the world stage in such a personal way and been slapped down so sharply in real time. While Chicago may have lost to Rio de Janeiro for all sorts of reasons that had nothing to do with Mr. Obama, the fact that he made himself the face of the city’s bid invariably meant it would be taken as a stinging rejection of its favorite son.

The defeat will be used as a political metaphor and raise painful questions. Why did he invest so much time, taxpayer money and, perhaps most important, presidential prestige in a losing effort? How did he misjudge the potential vote so badly that Chicago evidently was not even in the top tier? What does it say about a leader who may be far more popular abroad than his predecessor yet has trouble converting that esteem into tangible benefits for the United States?

Regarding of the image above, I included the caption on purpose to place the image in context. …That’s so, when you see it alongside the AP/GoogleNews article: “Analysis: Chicago’s loss is a blow to Obama, too,” you will know the picture shows nothing more than the Obama’s looking where people look when they descend stairs — as opposed to hanging their heads in shame.

And not to push it much further, but because the First Lady (who has been mostly “golden” up to now in terms of media coverage) attracted the bulk of the attention in lobbying for the Chicago bid, it does look here like it’s mostly around her neck.

(image: Charles Dharapak/AP)

  • NS

    Uhh… yeah.
    taxpayer money spent on Iraq/Afghanistan to date: $915,994,985,197
    taxpayer money spent on Obama going to Copenhagen: $1 million or more
    i think what the NYT meant to say was…
    “The ‘wars’ in Iraq and Afghanistan will be used as a political metaphor (at best) and raise painful questions. Why did Bush/Cheney invest so much time, taxpayer money and, perhaps most important, human lives in a losing effort? How did he misjudge the potential outcome so badly that eight years later, we are still looking ‘failure’ dead in the eye while Saddam Hussein evidently had no WMDs and Osama bin Laden is still at large?”
    yeah, that’s it.

  • S Forrest

    Big deal…We must ask why Americans expressed joy.. A strange kind of patriotism. Is it because they hate this administration, or this country? This surely must convince the rest of the world that this country is filled with wing
    During the Bush admin, people talked of respecting the office of the president, especially in a time of war. (ahem)
    The reaction is scary.

  • Wordsmith

    Rarely has a president put his credibility on the line on the world stage in such a personal way and been slapped down so sharply in real time.
    His credibility? Really? How? By promoting an American city as the possible choice for the worldwide Olympic games? Okay – yeah, the city happens to be his hometown. Credibility involves trustworthiness and believability. Let’s see. On the credibility meter, Obama has a helluva upon helluva way to go before reaching the depths of the credibility gaps surrounding, oh – say, DICK the Cheney, Georgie-Porgie, and then on down the line …..

  • g

    There were several heads of state there. Are we to believe that all the losing countries should lose confidence in their leaders? The decision is hardly made on the basis of the personal charm of the person making the pitch.
    Politics is baseball, you don’t get a batting average of 1000. He lost the Olympics? OK. At least he didn’t lose an American city.

  • g

    The story of the Conservative magazine newsroom that erupted in cheers reminded me eerily of the store – fake or real – of the Palestinians cheering on 9/11.

  • Serr8d

    Heh. I’d give you a ‘hat tip’ but you’ll likely delete this anyway.


  • Karen H.

    After looking at a whole bunch of photos from today, I got the impression it wasn’t a particularly enjoyable experience even before we were booted. Maybe he needs an easily definable failure here and there.

  • Sion

    I suspect the defeat was because the IOC is interested in going where the real money is being made.
    Daily Telegraph:
    “The sun is setting on the US dollar as the ultra-loose monetary policy of the US Federal Reserve forces China and the vibrant economies of the emerging world to forge a new global currency order, according to a new report by HSBC.
    “The dollar looks awfully like sterling after the First World War,” said David Bloom, the bank’s currency chief.
    (Rio is in one of the BRIC ‘emerging market’ nations – Brazil, Russia, India, China)
    “The whole picture of risk-reward for emerging market currencies has changed. It is not so much that they have risen to our standards, it is that we have fallen to theirs.”
    What is occurring is an epochal loss in the relative wealth and economic power of the old G10 bloc of rich countries compared to rising regions of the world.
    Mr Bloom said regional currencies would emerge as the anchor for their smaller trading partners, with China, Brazil, or South Africa substituting the role of the US.”

  • Jesse

    because losing an Olympic bid is totally the same thing as planes crashing into towers and killing 3000 people

  • stevelaudig

    I take the vote as a judgment on how welcoming the country is rather than the qualifications of the cities. In light of the gauntlet foreigners must run to get into the U.S. and the anti-foreigner sentiment stirred up by Dobbs, Limbaugh et al. If I were a voting delegate, all things being pretty much equal between the qualifications of the competing cities, I’d rather go to a welcoming Brazil rather than a racists, anti-Muslim, anti-foreigner U.S. as manifested in the language of Dobbs etc. If there was a loss it was more likely caused by the anti-foreigner rants and unrestrained American nativism, than anything Chicago, or Obama, did, or didn’t do.

  • jtfromBC

    I blame Obama’s failure on Chavez – Lula and their crazy lefty friends down there. They ganged up on the IOC and threatened to boycott the 2016 games. My sources also said that Coke and MacDonald’s supported these South American thugs and bullies.

  • lytom

    What was Oprah Winfrey contributing in Copenhagen to the US effort to get the Olympic bid? To quote her “I’ve appointed myself ambassador for Chicago.” What kind of qualifications is that? Soap talk?

  • Rafael

    Your patriotism is overwhelming, or is that underwhelming?

  • Rafael

    Lula a thug and a bully? Really? Could it be that it was about time a South American nation got to host the games?

  • Bruce Amiata

    The President *is* the country, don’t you understand?

  • g

    Given the information above that “the picture shows nothing more than the Obama’s looking where people look when they descend stairs — as opposed to hanging their heads in shame” – it’s nice to see Serr8d finally engage with the discussion about how visual images are used or framed. his contribution is a perfect example of what Michael’s talking about – and how a misleading interpretation can be amped up even further by those who would manipulate it. Thanks for finally staying on topic!

  • g

    I didn’t intend to equate the gravity at all, but even so – cheering at the misfortune of others just because it’s happening to “the other side” is a bitter ugly thing.

  • jtfromBC

    Of course your absolutely correct.. it was about time a South American nation got to host the games? and I thought Obama was given extremely bad advice and I can’t understand how he accepted it.
    My comment was meant as a joke or a take off on the corporate media lingo when reporting on SA. Lula received a lot of bad press re his unions days and is not viewed favorably in his association with a number of other SA leaders which have questionable credentials and disagree with ‘The Washington Consensus’ and neo liberal polices in general. Chavez has replaced Castro as the boogeyman inspiring all kinds of hanky panky everywhere in SA.
    Of course Coke and other corporate giants couldn’t give a damn where the Olympics are held. I’m really glad Chicago didn’t get the Olympics for a bunch of good reasons – many of them articulated by Dave Zirin in his 20 minute interview with Democracy Now @

  • jtfromBC

    Oprah was (hubrising ?) has fallen victim like a number of leaders to hubris a character trait becoming all to common with both political and entertainment big shots particularly in the ‘can do’ culture of USA.
    Lets win one for the Gipper and Ronnie Regan

  • Serr 8d

    Yeah, I know. I can’t really stand partisan bickery anyways. God knows it never happened during the Bush years.
    That said, here’s another photo that I welcome the Bag to post and discuss.
    Puts the whole Olympic putdown into context, as it were.

  • jtfromBC
  • Johanna

    The talks of both the Obamas were pretty self referential. Why should her father’s story have entered into consideration at all? Or the idea that Obama would enjoy stepping out of his own home with his daughters and walking down the street to the Olympics. If I had been a member and heard such talk, I would have been negatively influenced. There was bad advice here, both in urging the effort, and shaping the presentation. He needs a new speechwriter, and it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if some of the Chicago cronies returned to their real estate investments in that city.

  • yg

    in rightwing crazy world, it’s a bad thing for the president to go out and fight for america’s interest.
    if republicans really did put country first, they would have partnered with the president and went to copenhagen together to lobby in behalf of the country.

  • yg

    OIC officials were crazy about oprah. they vied to get photos with her.

  • yg

    OIC officials were full of praises for michelle. they were less impressed with the president. but then again, michelle was there longer.

  • Wordsmith

    but Athens, Greece, they went 1,000 percent over budget in Athens. That defies my knowledge of math that they went a thousand percent over budget. The city of Montreal, 1976 Olympics, they finished paying off their debt in 2006. It took thirty years to do it.
    Then it was a good thing. I love that phrase: “defies my knowledge of math.” 1000% over budget. Athens is a wonderful place; one of my favorite spots actually. If I’m doing it right (in my head) that’s liking spend $100K for something that should’ve cost $100.

  • jtfromBC

    I chuckled at the math phrase too. The Vancouver Winter Olympics are way over budget, new tax schemes (for the working class only) are on the way, the Provincial Gov pleads and begs private developers to help out as leaked security plans and financial estimates have tripled, and so it goes -
    Dave’s remark of the forced relocation of TWO Million PEOPLE in Beijing is a mental keeper as well.

  • jtfromBC

    I’m dubious about Patriotism have much validity as a defense for this fiasco.
    I suggest you reflect on The Seven P’s and how they might relate to Obama and Oprah’s, harebrained, fly by night scheme.
    Proper – Prior – Planning – Prevents – Piss – Poor – Performance. ;-)

  • Annoying Old Guy

    No, it would like spending $1100 for something budgeted at $100.

  • Annoying Old Guy

    Why is this is a defining moment for Obama and this not? Surely getting the Olympics or not is more significant than getting to sit at the head of the table during a conference.
    As Johanna points out, it’s not so much the loss per se, but the Obama Adminstration’s “ugly American” handling of the situation. First saying “too busy”, then dropping in for a quick speech instead of an actual effort, and then revealing that only now is the White House trying to figure out IOC politics. “Smart diplomacy” this was not.

  • mon_oeil

    It’s very disappointing to see the people of the US be such sore losers. It is not all about the United States. The United States cannot winner everything, all the time. All the other heads of state were present in Copenhagen, so why not Obama? King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia and Prime Minister Zapatero of Spain were present. Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama of Japan was there. President Lula of Brazil, of course. It is true that EVERYONE who did not get the bid was disappointed. Although there was “pain in Spain” it was not a mandate on Zapatero. The same with Hatoyama, he congratulated Brazil and went on with his duties as head of state. Obama did the same, as he wished Lula and Brazil the best.
    I recall the very day of the shattering loss to London when in Paris. In fact Bertrand Delanoe, the mayor of Paris, carried the loss much more heavily than Jacques Chirac, then President.
    The U.S. must over this blame game, be a good sport, congratulate Brazil for its win and for being the first South American country to host the Olympics. Spread the joy around, let every one have a turn to shine and glow. I think that is what the Obamas are feeling. Of course they did their all for a U.S. win, but I am sure they are just as happy for Brazil.

  • jtfromBC
  • Tena

    For god’s sake, Annoying, it’s the Olympics. Diplomacy may be part of it, but it’s not a damn meeting on the Israeli/Palestinian peace initiatives. The reason they wanted to bring the games here was the JOBS.
    And Obama was given to understand that if he showed up, Chicago had it.
    It’s too bad, mainly from the standpoint of losing those jobs to Brazil.

  • Johanna

    It is not self evident that jobs is the reason they wanted to bring the games here. The absence of any talk about it beforehand as a jobs, or even an American mission, the sudden springing of it upon the public, gave the feeling that there was something else going on here, that it was a mission to benefit Chicago, or even the paying of a debt. Because if he had announced he was going to Copenhagen to bring home the bacon for the USA, people would have loved it, win or lose. It was not staged as a mission to benefit the country or the economy as a whole. Only in the aftermath are these things being said.

  • Tena

    For god’s sake, Annoying = it’s the Olmpics, not the Israeli/Palestinian peace initiatives. Diplomacy is part of it, but it’s not really what it’s about. Obama was given to understand that if he showed up, Chicago would get the games. The reason he did it was for the JOBS.
    And that’s the reason it’s a shame that the US lost the bid, but it’s still the Olympics – which is not a thing that defines a presidency. Except in your mind and the overheated minds of all those who were hoping he’d fail and got their wish.

  • yg

    there was lobbying going on from chicago for a long time before the obamas got brought in. was the president supposed to be in charge of that too? was he supposed to stay up nights war gaming how to win the olympics? really?? i thought the rightie critique was that the president was going TOO much.

  • yg

    seen on another board, somebody bothered the read the OIC report. they cited the difficulty of obtaining US visas as a factor in deciding against chicago. visa protocols is a legacy left over from the previous administration.
    i’m sure images seen of what we’re doing in afghanistan didn’t help either.

  • yg

    everybody knows having the olympics creates jobs. or they should know it.

  • Johanna

    Everybody knows a lot of things that public figures state, anyway. The point is, if that was the reason for the mission, it should have been SO STATED beforehand. Everybody also knows that real estate can be sold to those building olympic villages. Did you think of that? There are a number of possible reasons why Obama might have done this little trip, including as a favor to mayor Daley. He should have stated the most acceptable reason in advance, that’s all.

  • Paul_D

    Thanks Serr 8d. Protein Wisdom proves its not just homeless people who ramble incoherently and ask for spare change.

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