Between a still-existent worldwide recession and nuclear saber-rattling from North Korea and Iran, it's pretty clear that the White House has a lot on its plate in terms of international relations.
A lot of serious stuff on the menu.
So, why does President Obama need to add "seconds" to the plate by getting personally involved in the U.S. bid to attract the 2016 Summer Olympics to Chicago? The president is now planning on traveling to Copenhagen this week.
Sure, it's the president's hometown, but that's no reason to put his own prestige at stake (if Chicago's bid is turned down, it becomes something of a personal slap at the president).
It's quite clear that Chicago's bid is important to the White House. The first lady has been working as something of a de facto lobbyist for the effort. In one rare case of bipartisan agreement, Obama actually has support for the visit from once and future GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, architect of the 2002 Winter Games. Yes, there's something to be said for the economic benefit that might accrue to the city (though exactly how much, once the cost of becoming the host city has been factored in, is open to debate).
But, in terms of priority, this is way down the level of importance in comparisons to the issues raised at the United Nations General Assembly, the G-20 -- and the ongoing deliberations over what to do with Iran. The president should be assembling a coalition to get Tehran to start jumping through hoops in order to prove that its nuclear intentions are solely peaceful (yeah, right). Instead the president wants to take time to grab the five rings that the Olympics represent. Romney is convinced that Obama's trip to Denmark will be all that is needed to seal the deal.
There's no guarantee of that.
Considering the apologetic supplicant role the president has presented to the world since entering the White House, he's got very little to show for it -- even from Western allies. Instead, while all the world seems entranced by the president and the first lady, few nations seem willing to step forward to sign on to any of his stated priorities:
European allies still refuse to send significantly more troops to Afghanistan. The Saudis basically ignored Mr. Obama’s request for concessions to Israel, while Israel rebuffed his demand to stop settlement expansion. North Korea defied him by testing a nuclear weapon. Japan elected a party less friendly to the United States. Cuba has done little to liberalize in response to modest relaxation of sanctions. India and China are resisting a climate change deal. And Russia rejected new sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program even as Mr. Obama heads into talks with Tehran.
And that was all before the recent developments related to Iran. Who knows? Perhaps the International Olympic Committee will see fit to toss the president a nice diplomatic crumb and accede to his request. Even if that occurs, presidential prestige should be put on the line for greater stakes than the opportunity to host a sports event.