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Will Obama's Absence Harm 2016 Bid?

By Marcus Gilmer in News on Sep 15, 2009 4:00PM

Mayor Daley and then-Presidential Candidate Obama at a 2016 rally in June 2008 (Marcus Gilmer/Chicagoist)

Sure, the First Lady is going and Oprah's mulling it over, but President Obama is skeptical he'll get to visit Copenhagen in October to make a last-second pitch for Chicago 2016 because he's got other things on his "to do" list. But to hear at least one member of the IOC talk about it, President Obama is the key to the whole deal for Chicago. An IOC member named Dick Pound (no, really) spoke at a symposium focused on the Olympics last night and said, among other things, "If you have a popular and transformational leader and you don't use him, you're not maximizing your chances. To the extent that the mayor and Pat Ryan can twist the presidential arm, they should do that. I think it could make a huge difference."

Okay, that makes sense. But Pound also played the "everybody else is doing it card," saying, "The risk is, your competitors are going to say 'Oh well, you know, he's too busy to come, but he sent his wife.' How that would play, I don't know." Indeed, the Trib notes:

Brazil's president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva already has said he'll be in Copenhagen, as will King Juan Carlos of Spain. Japan has invited incoming Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and Crown Prince Naruhito to attend.

Of course, in this case, "busy" means "hammering out health care reform." Pounds not alone in his stance, though. The Trib doesn't buy the excuse, either, according to this editorial.

Busy with health-care reform? That's the excuse? Is he afraid that House Republicans would launch a surprise attack on Medicare on Oct. 2 while he's in Copenhagen?

That sounds pretty flimsy. We suspect that Obama is being cautious about putting his prestige on the line and coming home empty-handed. It would be tough to lose to a guy whose nickname is Lula (Brazilian President Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva will represent Rio.).

Would it kill the health care bill's chances if Obama sneaked away for a weekend to Copenhagen? Probably not. Would it help Chicago 2016's chances? Of course. But you can't give the guy grief for prioritizing health care reform over the Olympics because bungling the reform will do far more to tarnish his prestige than "to lose to a guy whose nickname is Lula."