October 2, 2009
Obama’s Olympic failure will only add to doubts about his presidency
Tim Reid in Washington
Barack Obama fails to make the case for Chicago to the IOC in Copenhagen
There has been a growing narrative taking hold about Barack Obama’s presidency in recent weeks: that he is loved by many, but feared by none; that he is full of lofty vision, but is actually achieving nothing with his grandiloquence.
Chicago’s dismal showing today, after Mr Obama’s personal, impassioned last-minute pitch, is a stunning humiliation for this President. It cannot be emphasised enough how this will feed the perception that on the world stage he looks good — but carries no heft.
It was only the Olympic Games, the White House will argue — not a high-stakes diplomatic gamble with North Korea. It is always worthwhile when Mr Obama sells America to the rest of the world, David Axelrod, his chief political adviser, said today. But that argument will fall on deaf ears in the US. Americans want their presidents to be winners.
Mr Obama was greeted — as usual — like a rock star by the IOC delegates in Copenhagen — then humiliated by them. Perception is reality. A narrow defeat for Chicago would have been acceptable — but the sheer scale of the defeat was a bombshell, and is a major blow for Mr Obama at a time when questions are being asked about his style of governance.