Political Hay

Barack’s Games

Obama isn't feeling very Olympic today.

By 4.11.08

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The International Olympic Committee decided for some reason that the capital of Red China would be a swell place for the summer games this year. Predictably, China's authoritarian government -- which underwrites even worse regimes in Sudan and Burma -- is intent on making the games into a commercial for itself. Any inconvenient dissent is being crushed with even more fervor than usual, hence the skull-cracking response to protests in Tibet.

Hillary Clinton has urged President Bush to boycott the Olympic opening ceremony, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown all plan on doing.

John McCain said Wednesday that "the president ought to keep his options open," taking a tack similar to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who plans on boycotting the ceremony unless Beijing frees political prisoners and opens a dialogue with the Dalai Llama to negotiate the status of Tibet. Sharpening his position yesterday, McCain said that "unless they change some things pretty quickly, I would not go to the opening ceremonies."

And then there's Barack Obama. Asked about China and the Olympics at a town hall event in Pennsylvania on Wednesday, Obama ducked the question thus:

It's very hard to tell your banker that he's wrong. And if we are running huge deficits and big national debts and we're borrowing money constantly from China, that gives us less leverage. It give us less leverage to talk about human rights, it also is giving us less leverage to talk about the uneven trading relationship that we have with China.

In Obama's view, then, the United States has no leverage against China because China has the upper hand in our economic relationship.

THERE ARE REASONABLE, if unpersuasive, arguments against boycotting the torch-lighting. Some fear that shunning the ceremony would create a nationalist backlash. But Obama's answer is sheer twaddle. A million dollars in debt means the bank owns you; a trillion dollars in debt means you own the bank. The idea that the Chinese would launch an economic suicide attack is laughable.

As ABC News reported, Obama is cozy with Valerie Jarrett, the vice chair of the committee lobbying to bring the 2016 Olympics to Chicago. Perhaps spooked by the appearance of corruption, Obama issued a statement late Wednesday that moved closer to McCain's position, saying that "a boycott of the opening ceremonies should be firmly on the table, but this decision should be made closer to the Games."

Obama's unscripted answer, though, is the more revealing one, especially since it's more consistent with his position prior to yesterday (he told CBS News earlier this month that he's "hesitant to make the Olympics a site of political protest"). What we know about Obama suggests that he finds it hard to tell anyone, banker or not, that he's wrong.

Obama sat through Jeremiah Wright's sermons for decades. Did he ever tell the racist and anti-American Wright that that he was wrong? He's been a longtime acquaintance of Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, two unrepentant Weather Underground terrorists; in 1995 he held a political fundraiser at their house. Did he ever tell Ayers and Dohrn that they were wrong to take gleeful pride in their violent past?

And most pressingly, if Obama follows through on the promise he made in a debate last July to meet with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea, will he tell any of them that they're wrong?

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About the Author

John Tabin is a frequent contributor to The American Spectator online.