Obama's Olympic Sales Pitch Oils the Daley Political Machine

That's the "Chicago way."


By Peter Roff, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

A quick review of the headlines across the Internet reminds us that the world is becoming an increasingly dangerous place. The New York Times: "Iran Conducts New Test of Mid-Range Missiles." The Associated Press: "Venezuela Exploring Uranium Deposits with Russia." Reuters: "China to Display Upgraded Missiles in Oct. 1 Parade." The Financial Times: "India Raises Nuclear Stakes."

The news at home is hardly more reassuring. Reports of increased unemployment, especially among young people, tightened belts in the private and public sectors and racially charged beatings of students by students at America's public schools abound. It is clearly an unstable time, with lots of balls in the air.

And what is our president doing? Is he heading back to the United Nations to rally the civilized world in opposition to the Iranian missile and nuclear development program? Is he laying down markers emphasizing the Monroe Doctrine in an effort to keep Russian adventurism in South America in check? Is he taking to the Internet to address teen-on-teen race violence?

No to all of the above. The latest White House initiative has President and Mrs. Obama heading to Copenhagen, Denmark to pitch the International Olympic Committee on the merits of awarding the 2016 Summer Olympic Games to the city of Chicago.

Now I realize that one of the jobs of the President of the United States is to be an international salesman on behalf of U.S. business interests but going to Denmark to lobby the IOC doesn't benefit America; it benefits Chicago and its storied Daley patronage machine.

Obama's pulling out all the stops though, leading a delegation that, the New York Times said Monday, includes Olympic athletes, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, both of who are veterans of Illinois politics. It also includes talk show host Oprah Winfrey, though it's not clear whether she's traveling on Air Force One with the first couple; she may have a bigger plane.

It's also not clear who's footing the bill for this extravagance which, if successful, will no doubt be an excuse for even more federal largess lining the pockets of the Daley machine. Are the U.S. taxpayers footing the bill or is the city of Chicago paying for this all too local lobbying effort because, at the end of the day, it could be quite lucrative?

Putting the Olympics in Chicago means many more millions in federal dollars will be headed to the shores of Lake Michigan to pay for needed security upgrades and for other subsides and demonstration grants and pork barrel spending, at least part of which will no doubt eventually make it way into pockets it was not intended for. Which, to paraphrase Sean Connery in The Untouchables, "is the Chicago way."

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