Instead, though, in the middle of crucial discussion on vitally-needed health care reform and the seemingly-endless War in Afghanistan, our President flew off to Copenhagen, with the First Lady and -- would you believe -- Oprah Winfrey, to tout one of his many home cities, Chicago, for the 2016 Olympic Games. Instead, all of those rich old white guys on the International Olympic Committee not only rejected Chicago, but announced publicly that Chicago had come in last in the selections. It seems that all of the Obama party's wind could not save The Windy City from this humiliation. Rio was the well-deserved winner, since the Olympic Games were long overdue to be staged in South America.
It was the height of unwise audacity for Team Obama to stake so much on such a dismal prospect, given that Chicagoans were clearly divided as to whether or not they even wanted the Games, and that shortly before the IOC meetings in Copenhagen, a couple of youths were beaten to death in senseless mob violence. Nor has Chicagoan Rod Blagojevich's fiasco as then-governor of Illinois been forgotten by anyone, not even the IOC, which does keep up with world events.
Chicago's chances were pretty much doomed from the start; how could a city whose youth cannot act in a civilized fashion expect to serve as a model for the youth of the world? How could a city whose police and other authorities cannot protect its own citizens expect to be trusted to protect the Olympic athletes? The real mystery, then, is why Barack Obama would invest so much of his prestige and political capital on such a senseless project as getting the 2016 Olympics to Chicago. Surely the fact that former British Prime Minister Tony Blair had helped bring earlier games to London by his personal efforts would not be sufficient to justify Obama's audacity on behalf of Chicago.
Making matters even worse was the presentation to the IOC by the First Lady, who, instead of using the opportunity to be inspiring, instead used it to be irrelevant. Much as one sympathizes with the terrible tragedy of her father being afflicted with a horrible disease, the fact that he still could play ball with her in spite of that affliction had nothing at all to do with her pitch on behalf of Chicago. She can, and should, have done far better, but instead wasted her appearance before the IOC.
The ancient Greeks had a name for all of this; they would have called it hubris, the sin of overreaching due to an overinflated sense of self. If Barack Obama's brief stint presiding over the United Nations General Assembly the week before led him to believe that he is, in truth, President of the World (as CNN put it), he now knows better. If the sad reminder of the limitations of his powers which the IOC provided in rejecting Chicago reduces his hubris to manageable proportions, then perhaps the lesson will be well-learned.
Our President needs to concentrate on finally getting decent health care for all Americans through a recalcitrant Congress. He needs to concentrate on getting it right in Afghanistan, and not being swayed by the demands of generals who have their own particular hubris. He needs to insure that our economy actually does recover, while the abuses of the recent past by the financial sector and other corporate fat cats are permanently stopped. In particular, he needs to focus on reversing those continuing job losses which make any appearance of economic recovery quite hollow. Barack Obama needs to deal with those and other real challenges facing this nation, in a manner which insures that his well-intended audacity does not turn into more of his hubris -- that, indeed, would lead to a Greek tragedy for America.