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White House puts on a brave face over Olympics loss

October 2, 2009 | 11:03 am

So the "O team," President and First Lady Obama (two, count ‘em), and Oprah Winfrey failed to carry the day in Copenhagen, and the world’s athletes will samba their way to Rio de Janeiro in 2016. The real question is will there be a political fallout?

It sounds silly to think that something happening seven years from now could have a political effect on this president. Obama is facing issues including healthcare reform, a still struggling economy and international concerns such as Iran’s nuclear ambitions and what to do about Afghanistan. Will people focus on a failed Olympic bid?

Perhaps a clue to how seriously the White House is thinking about the effect was top political aide David Axelrod taking to the airwaves to inoculate the body politic. "I am proud of this president for going to make the case for this country,” Axelrod told MSNBC. “I think this country can be proud of that. Again, we’re....

...disappointed it didn’t work out, but it was well worth the effort. I’m not worried about the politics.

“Any time you’re going and making the case for the United States of America, you’re doing the right thing,” he said.

“All he really lost was some sleep, and he was more than happy to do that,” Axelrod told Bloomberg television. “In this town you’d be criticized if you did go; you’d be criticized if you didn’t go." Obama will speak when Air Force One returns.

Chicago is hardly a stranger to politics. You would think folks there would have remembered how Mayor Richard Daley made sure his people counted the presidential votes in 1960.  Madrid being one of the finalist cities didn’t surprise anyone who understands patronage. After all, Madrid was being pushed by former International Olympic Committee Chief Juan Antonio Samaranch.

Still, Chicago lost in the first round. But its losing bid was hardly the fault of Obama, who didn’t do anything more than try to use his star power to glad-hand the IOC. Businesspeople and politicians from the president’s hometown put the bid together and will have to deal with the ire of Chicagoans – if there is any. Chicago may be the city of big shoulders, but it has also seen its share of big sports disappointments -- like the Cubs.

And while today’s unemployment numbers won’t make the administration happy, Obama can take comfort that some form of healthcare reform is working its way through Congress and that he got a chance to look statesman-like on the international scene this week during the ongoing talks over Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

And even Oprah can take comfort knowing she will continue to be one of the most beloved television personalities on the planet, as well as one of the wealthiest. She can also console herself with being first to interview Mackenzie Phillips.

-- Michael Muskal

Twitter: @latimesmuskal
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