Like Jay Cost, I am fatigued by the permanent campaign, but he isn’t making any sense when he says this:
And so, in this case, what would otherwise have been a “mere” rejection of Chicago and Mayor Daley has now become a rejection of the entire country [bold mine-DL]. Why? Because of his decision to perpetuate the permanent campaign while holding the power of the executive.
This is wrong in several ways. If the President lends his support to an American city’s Olympic bid and that bid fails (as most informed observers outside the Chicago delegation guessed it would from the beginning), the “entire country” has not been rejected. This is ridiculous. While we invest it with some national symbolic importance, the Presidency does not embody “the entire country.” Though we may forget this at times, the Presidency does not even embody the entire federal government. There is something rather creepy in Cost’s assumption that a rejection of Obama, if that is what happened, is a rejection of America.
Why don’t we see the decision instead an affirmation of Lula, an embrace of Brazil, an endorsement of Rio de Janeiro? Because Obama’s critics and fans alike insist on making it about him and us, and they do this even when they are complaining that Obama inserts himself into everything. The problem here is as much our national self-absorption and continental provincialism as it is Obama’s politicking: most people criticizing Obama for this trip could not imagine losing out to the Brazilians, and it is even more unthinkable when the President involves himself. This is a product of an American feeling of entitlement, as if our city’s bid had to be the prohibitive favorite just because it was ours. After all, why would it be a “shock” that the IOC gave the next Games to a major city in an emerging-market country in South America instead of giving the U.S. yet another chance to host the Olympics? Everything pointed to Rio all along, but for many of Obama’s critics this seems incredible.
More to the point, while Obama went to Copenhagen when he didn’t have to go, it was the breathless obsession with this trip that both critics and admirers indulged in that has created the impression that the IOC’s decision represented, as Larry Kudlow absurdly said earlier today, “a crushing blow for the United States.” As far as I could tell, Rio had had the win locked up for some time, and today’s vote was mostly a formality. If Obama is “just the President,” as Cost says, we should be willing to ignore him whether or not he inserts himself into all sorts of things. Obama persists in campaign mode to the extent that he does because journalists, pundits and viewers respond to it and keep giving him reason to continue.
P.S. I should add that if Obama had ignored Chicago’s bid and it went down to defeat as it was always going to do, we would have heard endless groaning from the usual suspects about how Obama refused to “stand up” for America or some such nonsense.