Lang's analysis manages to cut to the heart of the problem Chris Bowers frets over, providing a political perspective (contra a policy perspective) on the problem. Interestingly enough, it also touches on Paul Krugman's concern in yesterday's column about misunderestimating the gambits being run by the Movement Conservatives.
"In making his pitch, the president had said that a nation shaped by the people of the world "wants a chance to inspire it once more." Never before had a U.S. president made such an in-person appeal, and Obama's critics will doubtlessly see the vote as a sign of his political shortcomings.
"I urge you to choose Chicago," Obama told members of the International Olympics Committee, many of whom he later mingled with as some snapped photos of him on their cell phones.
"And if you do — if we walk this path together — then I promise you this: The city of Chicago and the United States of America will make the world proud," the president said." Yahoonews.
$50 million dollars in costs sunk seeking the games and a great deal of private money to be made if they had the games. Those were the stakes. For that possible gain, the prestige of an already diminished president was wagered, and lost.
What we have learned from this is that the president is not his own man. His first inclination was to send his wife to appeal for the prize. That would have been wise.
Now we know that the Chicago money that drove his campaign is still very much in the driver's seat.
That is bad news. pl
The pithy response from Col. Lang cuts in two ways.
First, he talks about why the prestige and power of the Presidency was misused. Obama was called upon to play the huckster for parochial financial interests. He went to a high profile event for the sake of Chicago business interests. He went to obtain money for the private sector in a very crude way when the chief popular criticism of his adminsitration is that they are cosseting the monied class. It reinforces the perception that Obama is merely the bag man for financial elites. The US did need to have a significant presence in Copenhagen to bargain for the Olympics if only for appearance's sake, but the wider financial advantages of the games are questionable.
The second point is more subtle. A president's political capital is the perception that he can deliver on promises, whether to harm or to help, and this capital is not apportioned by type. By that I mean that a president can't wall off political weaknesses; a failure in one venue has repercussions for others. What Obama traded away for the sake of some crony capitalism was his efficacy in every scenario where he has to offer a credible promise. Small events reverberate when dropped into the Right Wing noise machine, and this sets the agenda for how to frame perceptions.
The currency of politics is power. Power is the ability to deliver. Failure to deliver reduces power.
Obama has yet to intimidate his opponents or reassure his contituents that he can deliver. The smackdown, the goods, neither are in evidence. This single event, the failed bid for the Olympics, cannot be viewed politically in isolation from events, like the dissing Obama received from one of his own generals, for example. It has nothing to do with hope, change, mad consensus building skillz, or bipartisanship.
It's the power, stupid.