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White House puts on a brave face over Olympics loss

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
Comments () | Archives (63)

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At least the IOC sees through Obama...

WHy do you jerks not print comments that go against your liberal views? "1984", "Ministry of Truth" type thing? It shows the real faith you have in your philosophy...

What was Obama thinking to go there to begin with? Does he think he is still a "community organizer"? He should be thinking like a "President."

Well, he tried and we ALL hoped for the Olympics, I think except for all those naysayers who are naysaying themselves till they're blue in the face!

"The real question is will there be a political fallout?"

I suppose it's the real question for two-bit opinion reporters and opportunistic Republicans. Everyone else has actual problems to deal with. Too bad real issues don't lend themselves to the least common denominator, horse race-style coverage that modern "journalists" are so enamored with.

Quote from the ever-bloviating Axelrod: “All he really lost was some sleep, and he was more than happy to do that.” It's sad he lost some sleep. How much money was wasted for this trip? The American people only see Air Force one, which costs millions for a trip by itself. What they don't see is the support aircraft (military) and all of the other logsitical assets sucked up for POTUS travel. This had to have cost the taxpayers in the tens of millions. And, I believe the hard push by the Obamas had a total opposite effect of the intended outcome, which was to turn off the voting committee vice wow them with the mere presence of the Obamas. Nice.

Anyone who reads the LA Times expects the Times to spin the results of this Obama loss. It comes during the time the news from "Cash for Clunkers" reveals the temporary nature of the initial spike from that program for what it was and now the auto industry is back to the doldrums of the US economic malaise. It's typical of the Obama fascade. The time is getting ripe for the stimulus results to show the same misguided thinking of flooding the entire US economy with money but having created no wealth.

Obama is a loser and the Olympics are one of the first events exposing him.

Al I second that.


Maybe this olympic loss is a good lesson for Obama. He needs to learn It's a fact he can't have everything his way.

And that's what you get for beating honor students to death...

For one thing, I would have to agree with alot of people their are alot of other things for him to be doing, but I think he did it for his wife as well, so cut him some slack.
However, taking that racist and talk show tragedy OPRAH was a
mistake. That is what probably cost Chicago the games. If I were on the committee and saw her walk in, I would have just
have voted no.

The trip cost us American taxpayers $10 million dollars. Oh fearless leader when am I going to get my share of that $10 million back that you just wasted when you should of been talking with your Afgahan leader more than once in 70 days and quit spending so much time with David Letterman and Oprah

Wow, it never ceases to amaze me how the losing Republicans remain so BITTER after November's loss and everything that goes wrong in the word is somehow Obama's fault now? Get over it guys. Move on. Obama did the right thing by representing the United States in Chicago's bid. So Chicago lost, big deal. Get a life.

Let's face it, you would have given high credit to Obama if Chicago would have won the bid. Shouldn't you also give high blame since he didn't get it? You know he wouldn't have gone to take the political risk if it was so close that he just needed to nudge it over the top. But to lose in the first round of voting? It's hard to give him any credit for that one, regardless of your politics.

".....he got a chance to look statesman-like on the international scene this week during the ongoing talks over Iran’s nuclear ambitions."


FAIL. It is amateur hour.

When was the last time a city that hosted the Olympics actually make a profit?

I was thinking- he's going to HATE being forced to say something good about America- instead of apologizing for it,
how's he going to spin that?

But his take was:

Chicago is cool 'cause it helped elect me! An anti-American president! (which as Michelle noted, was the first time she'd ever experienced pride in her country.)

So now I'll happily accept these games in my backyard as a token of your appreciation for me and my election!

It's pretty embarrasing to have a President begging in front of a panel of petty sporting event officials, the UN's bad enough!

Not before he was shamed into it!


Why would they host the Olympics in Chicago??? Even the overseas community knows not to go to that dump of a place!

Great job IOC, now if you can only get Americans to see through the great big "O".

UPDATE: More headlines...
Obama’s Olympic failure will only add to doubts about his presidency

He truly thinks that he has this magical touch...he talks a lot about how gifted he is in his first book, so I am not surprised that he really thought he can hypnotize them to vote for Chicago...

the funny thing is that they had Michelle wear GOLD dress for the reception there...they sure thought the had this in the bag!!!!!

Some Republicans criticized the president's trip to Copenhagen but other Republicans, like Mitt Romney, defended the president. It should not have been a controversy in the first place.

Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) said today that Chicago's failed bid led by the Obamas is Bush's fault.

Jesse Jackson said today that Chicago's failed bid was politically motivated because the USA had sent its "A Team" (including Oprah?) to face the IOC. Jackson reasoned that was enough to secure the Olympics for Chicago.

Now that the IOC has disagreed with the Obamas and the USA delegation about where the 2016 Olympics should be held which politician or celebrity will next play the race card on the IOC?

Maybe... just maybe.... if Chicagoans would concentrate on their soaring crime rate perhaps ony then will they become a serious candidate to be an Olympic city.

Right on AL and thank you for making my day!

What a clearly slanted shallow article this was. Oprah can take comfort in the fact that she's wealthy? Don't even care to address that farce. This bid had everything to do with Obama and who he is and the history behind the bid (do your homework, Mr. Muskal)is replete with the Chicago mob corruption that the IOC wisely chose to disassociate itself from. The IOC obviously has Obama pegged and can see right through his scamming self-grandazing ways. The Obamas stood before the panel and mocked them by making this about the Obamas. Who cares about what Obama wanted for his second term? (Notice he didn't say his last). Was he trying to reenact the opening of the 1936 Berlin Games? I'll let the readers answer that one. And Michelle? What the hell was all that about?

If there is any one message that the IOC wanted to hand deliver straight into the hands of the Obamas it is this...


Can we now get back to real issues? The "wins" I care about are the economy, Afghanistan, and keeping Iran from going nuclear. Give us wins on those and the Olympic distraction is forgotten.

The IOC sent Barry and Michelle packing, with their tails between their legs. Good for the IOC to acknowledge the Obamas trip was simply an "ego trip". Now that Barry is back home he can get back to his real job...making infomercials. LOSER!

Thank you IOC.

That is a blast to 3 massive egos! LOL!!!

I wish Rio and Brazil the best, I am sure they will do a most excellent job in hosting the Olympics. I do not understand the criticism of our President, he was just supporting his adopted home town. The IOC, however, is going to get a haircut: there is no way that US sponsors will pay as much for a Rio games as a games in Chicago. Looking forward to Vancouver and London and Sochi and Rio.

The Great Messiah has failed as he is failing as president. Obama is not ready for prime time!

Chicago lost in the first round, how sad is that for Pres Obama, Mrs. O, and Oprah? And, where are all the liberals decrying his carbon footprint to go there in the first place? H.Y.P.O.C.R.I.T.E.S. :)

Hmm. Here i was thinking this was about taking the sport to a continent that had never held them...

Al's comment is so true and funny!

Why is this such a big issue? Why does it seem like we Americans think we are the only country that matters in this world? The US hosted two recent Olympics, not counting the L.A. summer games in 1984. This is the first time the Olympics have gone to South America, is that correct? Good for them....they deserve it! Sheesh, even the former IOC chief was rejected. Get over yourselves, America! Obama tried and was told what! You can't win them all, all mighty America! Good grief, don't we have more important things to worry about?

And the economy is falling apart.....why should we care about the Olympics and Croynism? was a wasted effort but hey that is what this admin. is about,right. We are all show and no go!!By Christmas this Country will be in full out depression,but hey we care about the Olympics.Cool Dude!

MSNBC- You guys are shameful!!Are you Journalist or the Barack Obama 24/7 Channel?

Funny how the far righties hate America. Bush came out and supported Chicago's bid and said it was a national effort. Obama does the same and the GOP nuts celebrate. Bush supported NYC bid for the 2012 Olympics, which London won, but the Democrats didn't celebrate. It is a sad day for America when it is obvious that a minority party will root against anything positive to happen for the country if there is a Dem in the White House. Chicago's bid would have created jobs across statelines - Wisconsin and Michigan, but explain the jubilation to those areas that now miss out on potential jobs. The world press is stunned by the right's response to America's failure and how do you explain the America haters? Love it or leave it, righties. There's always conservative nations like Iran where you can plant your crooked flag. GOP...RIP. You have just created an anti-GOP activist.

Well I don't think not winning to host Olympic has anything to do with Obama's presidency.

Now I think the real problem is why did Chicago sent Oprah to Copehagen? It didn't make any sense. Last time I remember Olympic was an athletic event. If Brasil sent Pele' there, why Chicago didn't send the most celebrated athlete who played for the Chicago Bulls, Michael Jordan? Yes, Pele' is well known, but he's a guy from early '80s at most. Michael Jordan was at least the athlete from mid '80s to 21st century. He alone could made something out of it.

It has has nothing to do with Obama. The IOC is mindful of the desires of the rest of the world as well as Rio's reputation as a city where anything goes. Tourists will also find the extreme poverty of the favelas and concomitant crime enlightening and shocking.

It will be interesting to see if Rio's police crack down violently or give up, letting Olympics visitors be robbed a second time.

It's not an issue of Democrats vs. Republicans or liberals vs. conservatives. The mistake is one of setting the prestige of the Office of the President into an uncontrollable situation....and on a "local" level. The selection was for a host CITY, not a nation. That's where President Obama's error came.

The President must remember he is a national leader, not local or state. No longer is he a community organizer in Chicago or the senator from Illinois. With issues like Afghanistan, Pakistan, the entire Middle East, China and its buying of U.S. bonds, and other worldly problems (let's leave out health care and financial industry reform here in America) the PERCEPTION of power and prestige is a key tool. This is what the President lost. He should have learned from the whole Beer Summit debacle...that he needs to stay focused as a national leader, not a Chicago/Illinois politician.

Maybe he should put a photo of Diamond Head on his credenza to remind him that his real roots are in Hawaii. At least that geographic pinpoint would stretch his vision from Washington DC across the entire U.S.

Now, the big question is: What has President Obama learned from this experience?

I pray for the best...

Just as he enters in at the last minute to give that extra push to win hosting the summer Olympics in 2016 so he had with the push to get true healthcare delivery reform for all
Americans, by including a single payer option. What he had said about the failed results of his late involvement with the 2016 Summer Olympics can also be said about his involvement in the healthcare reform debate. “You can play a great game and still not win.” In fact this could very well represent the next few years of his administration if he does not show the strength and flex the power of his position that we certainly saw in the previous administration though misguided it was.

President Obama’s trip to Copenhagen could have, should have been more productive with a little more foresight and planning. While there he should have met with the minister of health or whatever they are called there to discuss and learn about their healthcare delivery system. Like that proverbial missed shot that would determine the outcome of the game, the President let the ball pass right by him. Even better would have been to invite Senators Baucus and Snow and perhaps others to join him on the trip to Denmark.

The reality of it all is that the game of healthcare reform, healthcare insurance health reform, has already been thrown and the winner is: the oligarchs of the Healthcare Insurance Industry.

Wow, there's a lot of hatred and negativity up in here. He made a run at the Olympics, a positive for every hosting city, and didn't get it.

It is very difficult to stomach this tripe from armchair commenters that eagerly await any article about the POTUS so they can decry his perceived massive failures and anti-"americanism"

Hitler would have secured the games!

I for one would like to know what Chicago ultimately had to offer that Los Angeles didn't? Miserable weather? Possibly a high unemployment rate? A greater illegal alien population?

How short sighted people are, 25 years after LA hosted the most successful games in history. Many organizations are still befitting today. Of course, that is if any of you bothered reading those articles that were published during the summer by this rag.

In the greater Los Angeles region, there are new venues that have been built since 1984 that would have surely drawn sellout crowds. The Staples Center, Home Depot Center, Galen Center, Honda Center, a reconfigured Angels Staduim, and Petco Park, just to name a few.

Yes, we still have that aging behemoths in the Coliseum, the Rose Bowl and Dodger Stadium, but they are still being used today for USC, UCLA football and Dodgers baseball.

What major attractions does Chicago have that we don't? Oh wait, nothing. We have beaches, Hollywood, plenty of shopping experiences and an addition to Disneyland.

So BOO HOO Chicago, keep your perennial "lovable losers" stigma, because there's nothing lovable about the 3 losers that went to go plead your case, and embarrass us as a nation.

If you want good result, go to the experience. Daley should ask Mitt Romney.

Obama is a joke of a President. What a first class fool he is. The man has done nothing but make speeches, waste money, and go on chat shows. Why even GO to the I.O.C. meeting except to massage his enormous ego.

Both Obamas need to be sent packing ASAP. We need a REAL president not a half baked overrated community organizer who never achieved anything but has the ability to charm rich democrats out of some cash and con spoiled media brats. Obama WAS the world's best con man...until Friday. Epic Fail, Barrack! HA HAHAHA!

I'm glad Obama got slammed in Denmark. He needs to be taken down a notch or two...or six. Is it 2012 yet?

Boo hoo. You sad little Republicans are so bitter over losing you will whine, bitch, and complain over every little thing Obama does or doesn't do.

Well, let's try not to forget the embarrassingly unintelligent "W" who drove this country into a recession, a massive deficit, and the catastrophe that is the Iraq war.

So tell me, what good did "W" do in those 8 years?

CAN I just say, the USA (yes your country, the big Cahuna, the US etc) has held the Olympics 4 (FOUR) times, 2 times more than any other country, Isn't it about time any country who hasn't hosted the Olympics at least hosts it ONCE, at least JUST ONCE? PLEASE?

Aw, c'mon now! Chicago vs. Rio? I love Chicago and all, but who wouldn't pick Rio? LOL

LOL. Obama, his mate and Ophra have egg on their face.

They used tax payer money to try to take the Olympics to the filthy crime-infested city of Chicago. The 'classy' First Lady Michelle (My Belle) made members of the IOC wait 45 minutes before she would appear. Punctuality is the politeness of kings. Obviously, Michelle is no "Queen" but she came off as more of a rook than anything else. The Obama's good friend, Ophra, was just there for her own perverse self-indulgence: losing luster as her television show loses viewers and popularity. Perhaps Ophra should have given away free cars to all the members of the OIC? Still, she could at least eat her way through most of Europe and still have her staff digitally reduce her enormous size so that she appears almost human-like on the covers of her eponymous "magazine".

I wonder how much the savage beating/murder of the 16 y.o. high school student had to do with the decision to take the Olympics to South America? I've traveled through Brazil and have spent time in Rio and know how dangerous it can be, but Chicago's savage display of violence was all over the internetz just prior to the vote. It could not have helped Chicogo's chances. I'm not too sure that the OIC would like to be welcomed by a gang of thugz on the dangerous streets of the Windy City.

Obama should have relegated the job of pleading for the city to the mayor. The task was to get the Olympics to Chicago. Obama, Michelle and their good friend, Ophra, made it about the OBAMA'S. They personalized it and now have to pay the price. Obama placed himself in political jeopardy and now he has been hoisted by his own petard.


This well publiciozed failure will certainly reinforce the perception of an empty suit in the White House.

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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