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Details Emerge About Chicago 2016's Wooing Of Obama

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

The Obama administration has gone into spin control in regards to Obama's trip to Copenhagen to support Chicago 2016's failed Olympic bid and is using the classic, "Well, they told us it'd be fine" method. A report in this morning's Tribune reveals behind-the-scenes details describing the way in which the Chicago 2016 bid committee persuaded Obama to make his much-talked-about whirlwind trip to Copenhagen on behalf of the city's bid. Worried that the heated health care bill would head to the floor of either the House or Senate for debate with him in Europe, Obama was still hesitant to make the trip until a few days before he took off.

Several weeks ago, he was in the Oval Office on the phone with Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. The mayor wanted him to make the trip. The president told him that he genuinely wanted to go, but was worried about his workload.

"He said, 'I don't want to make a commitment that I can't keep,' " according to Axelrod, who was in the room. " 'So I'm not going to make any final decisions and will keep this open.' "

A few days later, Axelrod said, the president told his staff to send an advance team to Copenhagen just in case. "It was always in his mind that he wanted to go and would go," Axelrod said. "But he needed to leave himself a little bit of room in case healthcare was on the floor."

It was the coaxing from Chicago 2016 reps - as well as the assurance that the health care bill would not go to the floor in the 24 hour window in which he was gone - that eventually convinced Obama to make the trip. Senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett (one of the many Chicagoans Obama brought with him to DC), said, "The intelligence that we had from the U.S. Olympic Committee and Chicago bid team was that it was very close and therefore well worth our efforts. The message was that...a personal appeal from the president would make a huge difference."

Of course, we all know what happened next. While Obama may very well be privately pissed at the people who persuaded him to make the trip, he's not showing it publicly. After the IOC voting shook out, Obama said, "You can play a great game and still not win...Although I wish that we had come back with better news from Copenhagen, I could not be prouder...I have no doubt that it was the strongest bid possible, and I'm proud that I was able to come in and help make that case in person." Still, it's a hit for the Obama administration that comes at a time when they need all the help they can get. One has to wonder if the next time Mayor Daley, who's got enough to worry about himself, places a call to the White House, will Obama be as quick to return it as he has been in the past?