President Obama has decided to personally attend the International Olympic Committee meeting in Copenhagen this week in order to make a presentation in support of Chicago’s bid to host the 2016 summer games.
President Barack Obama, who initially planned to let First Lady Michelle Obama represent the United States in Copenhagen this week, when the International Olympic Committee chooses a site for the 2016 summer games, plans to travel there too.
The White House, which earlier had announced that an advance team was headed to Copenhagen to prepare for a possible presidential trip to Copenhagen, confirmed this morning that Obama will travel Thursday night. The IOC meets Friday.
A senior administration official told the Tribune Washington Bureau this morning that Obama will travel to Copenhagen Thursday night, and return following the Friday meeting. The first lady plans to travel Tuesday, and meet with individual members of the IOC on Wednesday and Thursday to make Chicago’s case for the games. The president will join her at the full committee meeting on Friday.
What in the wide, wide world of sports is going on here?
It’s not like the president doesn’t have anything to do, nothing important on his plate at the moment, right?
* An economy that, despite administration claims, is not recovering in any meaningful way and is in severe danger of slipping back into crisis.
* An ongoing, vital review of our policy in Afghanistan with the commanding general threatening to resign unless he gets a massive infusion of troops. The president has asked General McChrystal to “wait” - now we know why.
* The very day he leaves for Copenhagen, a representative of the United States government will sit down for talks with Iran about the future peace of the world and Iran’s ambitions with regard to building a nuclear weapon - a supposed centerpiece to his policy of engagement.
* His continuing problems with his own party in trying to get health care reform passed.
Why was his wife’s importunings to the IOC not good enough? What could possibly have possessed the president to put some of these other, demonstrably more important activities on the back burner and go to Copenhagen and personally lobby the super-annuated, corrupt, and cynical IOC members to bring the Olympics to Chicago and create a bonanza of “pay to play” and other schemes to enrich Daley cronies and perpetrate the obscenity that is the Democratic political machine in Illinios?
In a word, payback.
All through December of 2007, Obama and Daley danced around each other’s political ambitions, each wanting the other’s endorsement - neither wanting to pay too high a price. They met several times at City Hall, feeling each other out about both the efficacy of such endorsements as well as the timing.
For Obama’s part, any endorsement of the corrupt Daley would tarnish his “reform” credentials - a crucial element of his eventual “hope and change” mantra. Obama trotted out these “outside the machine” bona fides whenever it suited him politically. The real Chicago reformers never trusted him - with good cause. He had been known to back machine candidates in the past, stiffing his “friends” in the reform movement.
But Obama was trying to preempt Daley from staying “neutral” which would have helped Hillary Clinton who at the time was a prohibitive favorite to win. The Daley family had very close ties to the Clintons with the Mayor’s brother Bill having served in the Clinton administration as Commerce Secretary and also run Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign. Bill Daley’s rolodex of heavy hitter contributors was the stuff of legend among Democratic politicians.
But Daley was playing coy. He had never endorsed a presidential candidate in a primary before and just because Obama had close ties to the city, didn’t mean he would abandon that tradition. But Daley was also in a spot of political trouble. Hizzoner’s biggest fear was that the reformers would find an attractive minority candidate to run against him in the Democratic primary.
Now Daley prided himself on his cultivation of the large and politically active Hispanic community in Chicago, as well as his stroking of the South Side black community. But a re-election endorsement from the most prominent African American politician in the state would pretty much seal the deal and assure him of another term in office.
Arguably, Daley would be doing the relative unknown Obama much the bigger favor. Hence, the dance for mutual endorsements ended when Daley gave the nod to what appeared to be the hopelessly outclassed Obama within hours of his announcement that he was seeking the presidency. This followed Obama’s own endorsement of Daley that occurred three weeks previously that dripped with a cynicism worthy of any hard bitten machine pol. Obama actually congratulated Daley for his efforts to clean up the city - less than 6 months after two of Hizzoner’s closest aides were convicted in a patronage scheme.
The rest is history. At the time, Daley was probably the best known national Democratic figure to support Obama’s candidacy. And the fact that Bill Daley, with his trusty Rolodex, was installed as one of Obama’s most important advisors was equally significant.
So now it’s payback time as the president travels to Copenhagen to try and get the biggest payoff for the Chicago machine in its long and sorry history. The several hundred million dollars that gravitated to the city and state in stimulus money will be seen in retrospect as a pittance compared to the opportunities for Cook County, Chicago, and Illinois politicians to garner a potential several billion dollar windfall. The opportunities for graft, featherbedding, pay to play, kickbacks, and other business as usual practices of the machine that reward friends, punish enemies, keep the mob happy, and keep the machine’s loyalists in power will be beyond counting.
The machine will benefit through spending to construct the Olympic village, run concessions, realize a fortune in extra taxes imposed on hotels and motels, restaurants, bars, and other travel industry businesses, and generally prosper from the hundreds of thousands of visitors expected in the city during the course of the games.
For starters, as Crain’s reports, let’s take the construction of the Olympic Village:
Chicago and the Obama administration are exploring ways the federal government can bolster the city’s bid for the 2016 Olympic Games with financial support for the $1-billion Olympic Village.
Crain’s has learned that senior presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett and Lori Healey, president of the Chicago 2016 committee, met this month with top officials of the Department of Housing and Urban Development to discuss financing options for the village, the single biggest project — and question mark — in the city’s bid.
The main hurdle facing Chicago is coming up with a long-range plan for an Olympic Village that is commercially viable while meeting objectives of existing HUD programs that could be tapped for funds, such as low-income housing tax credits and grants or loan guarantees for community development, affordable housing or housing for seniors.
“I think it’s premature to talk about what the funding might be,” says Ms. Jarrett, a former co-chair of Chicago 2016 and city planning commissioner who now heads White House efforts to help Chicago’s bid. “A proposal has not been made to the federal government, but the administration is not closing the door” on anything, she adds. The administation “obviously (is) willing to meet and listen.”
Hat Tip: John Ruberry
Lastly - and this is pure speculation with a little partisan twist thrown in - my observing Obama these many years has convinced me that there are few politicians who have such an inflated opinion of their own worth. Obama presiding over the Olympics in 2016 - his last few months in office if he wins reelection - would be his own crowning achievement (and Daley’s ticket to immortality as well as the signature achievement of his family’s 50 year domination of Chicago politics). I think there is a significant element of narcissism in all of this which makes his abandonment of Washington at this crucial time appear even more of a selfish act.
I don’t see much in the way of questioning whether this trip is necessary from too many people - press or pundits. Then again, what would you expect?
Byron York and I are on the same wavelength today.
Michelle Malkin has two additions to the Culture of Corrpution - Olympics Edition.
Malkin also had a piece last week that Ed Lasky pointed me to that has Valerie Jarrett standing to make millions on selling some rat infested apartments.