An Olympian Decision by Steven Jonas, MD, MPH

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by Steven Jonas, MD, MPH
Featured Writer
Dandelion Salad
crossposted on
Oct. 6, 2009

So there was the crew at The Weekly Standard cheering the news of Chicago’s loss. And the Chicago loss we’re talking about here does not concern the Cubs. They haven’t made it since Fred Merkle of the New York Giants committed his classic “boner” in 1908. But that’s another story. “Hah,” said Sean Hannity, trying oh-so-unsuccessfully to cover up his gloating, “he [Obama] didn’t do his due diligence.” (Hannity never uses the term “the President,” at least not when I listen to him. I listen for a few minutes at a time now and then to see how long it takes for him to tell a lie, or take something out of context, or use two wrongs make a right, or go on one of his whining jags — Beck cries, Hannity whines. The record has been three minutes and 40 seconds, although it’s usually much less.) These guys were absolutely celebrating the loss. Whatever happened to patriotism? Oh I know. It’s invoked only when they are trying to line up people to support a GOP president for some killing/torture policy or other.

So was the decision by the International Olympic Committee really a slap-down of President Obama? Did he and his staff really not do their “due diligence” and know that there was not a snowball’s chance in hell (even if this is a summer, not a winter, Olympics we are talking about) that Chicago would get it? Did they not know that Chicago most likely made the Final Four mainly as a courtesy to the U.S.? Well I am sure that they did. I am certain that the President went to the meeting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Copenhagen not with any real hope of getting the Games for Chicago. I think that the President went primarily to show the flag in another international forum, the United Nations of sport, if you will, to show the world that yes, things have changed in Washington. To show the world that indeed he understands sport, that you don’t always win, but you still play the game, and for the other finalists, heads of government or their equivalent were coming.

Under this President, we now have a policy of respecting the world and world opinion. We have left “you’re with us or against us” and “bring it on” behind, we once again want the world’s respect and are implementing a variety of new policies in order to gain it back. Despite the Right’s whining about “apologizing,” there have been none that I have heard. I have seen some major changes in foreign policy and repudiation of past policy that clearly has not worked. It hasn’t changed as far or as fast as many of us on the left would like it to, but it has changed and is continuing to do so. So what really happened in Copenhagen?

Most of this is known, but I think that it is useful to bring the several reasons together in one place. First of all, there is the “Bush Effect.” There are many nations that want to “give it to” the U.S. because of what Bush foreign policy has done around the world (not only in Iraq), but also cannot do so in venues such as the UN. There are the specific complaints about such thing as U.S. visa policies instituted under Bush. There is the whole Islamophobia thing and the absolute refusal of the Bush Administration to do anything significant about resolving the Israel/Palestine situation for its eight years in office.

Then there is the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC). It’s a mess. And not only for the reasons described in The New York Times story about its leadership and finances that appeared on its sports pages on Sunday, Oct. 4, 2009. I am fairly close to the leadership of one of the USOC constituent sports governing organizations. I have been told that many of the U.S. sports national governing bodies find the USOC very difficult to deal with on a wide variety of sport, financial, and governance issues. That kind of information of course gets to the IOC. They don’t want the games to go to a country that does not right now have a very solid national Olympic Committee. The memory of the almost-disaster of the 2002 Winter Olympics at Salt Lake City is certainly fresh in their minds. Yes, those Games were indeed rescued by none other than Mitt Romney, who still uses that experience as one of his qualifications to be President of the United States. But that was a very close call.

We don’t know the details of the quality of the Chicago application, but we do know a) that there was significant Chicago opinion against having them, particularly from the South Side that sees many local needs that need to be met with money before very significant sums should be spent on something such as the Olympics. And then, b) Rio does have a very strong claim because, with a decent proposal (and I am in no position to comment that), they do have the fact that there has never been an Olympics in South America on their side.

Finally, getting back to Sean Hannity’s “due diligence” whine. One wonders just what kind of “due diligence” he is talking about. The due diligence in planning the War on Iraq without any planning about what to do after the U.S. overwhelmed the forces of Saddam Hussein? Or even before that, the due diligence in determining for sure that Saddam had WMD. Perhaps it was the due diligence in ignoring the warnings that had been given for years about the levees situation in New Orleans. (Clinton ignored those warnings too, but Hannity is a Republican, isn’t he, so he must have been talking about Bush and due diligence.) Maybe it was the due diligence about what would happen to the national debt with the massive tax cuts for the rich combined with the unfunded expenditures on Bush’s war of choice. Could it be the due diligence that Hank Paulson displayed when he came in with that first bank bail-out proposal covering, oh my, 2 ½ pages, was it?

One can be sure that Obama’s staff did their due diligence and knew that barring some miracle (and certainly the Republican/Christian Right was praying against that one), the Chicago application for the 2016 Olympics was going to go the way the Chicago Cubs have gone since 1908. That was not the reason Obama went to Copenhagen. But then the reasons Obama went to Copenhagen are so far beyond the comprehension of what passes for the Republican Party these days that it simply not worth the time to discuss those reasons with that party.

Speaking of the Republicans and their “base,” their principal supporters these days, there is one thing we know for certain. I heard one wag quoted on XM/Sirius Satellite radio’s “POTUS” channel this morning (Oct. 5) say this: Now we know for sure. Obama is not Hitler. Hitler got his Olympics.

Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor of 30 books. In addition to being a Columnist for BuzzFlash, Dr. Jonas is also a Contributing Author for TPJmagazine; a Featured Writer for Dandelion Salad; a Columnist for The Greanville POST,; a Contributor to TheHarderStuff newsletter,; a Contributor to The Planetary Movement; and a Contributing Columnist for the Project for the Old American Century (POAC);