When House Minority Leader John Boehner came out strongly on Wednesday against the president’s decision to personally lobby the International Olympic Committee in Copenhagen on behalf of Chicago to host of the 2016 Olympic Games, he did so for the wrong reasons, and to be completely honest I’ve shuddered a bit as I’ve seen and heard too many people take his sentiment and run with it on their own.
Essentially, Boehner’s outrage was centered on the idea that Barack Obama should not be traveling overseas when there is so much work to be done at home. The problem with such an argument is that it ignores the fact that George W. Bush spent 487 days at Camp David and another 490 days at his Crawford, Texas ranch during his presidency, and that Republicans did their level best to spurn outrage from the left by pointing out that, as president, he could essentially work everywhere. If that flexibility and capability applies to Bush as president, it should similarly apply to Obama.
Yes, the health care debate rages on, and yes, American servicemen and servicewomen continue to be endangered and killed in Afghanistan while the president considers the political consequences of authorizing reinforcements, but both of those issues can be handled on the fly. Considering the capabilities of Air Force One, “on the fly” can in fact be taken quite literally.
As I mentioned before, though, the president should by no means get a free pass. For me, the affair in Copenhagen is particularly offensive for two reasons:
- The overt show of corruption and self-dealing.
- The full display of Michelle Obama’s rampant solipsism.
This president and this administration does nothing by accident, and rarely if ever has anybody’s well-being in mind other than itself. Therefore, it should be assumed that he and those close to him understand the ramifications, political and otherwise — making my two reasons for outrage above seem even more egregious.
Corruption and Self-Dealing
First, when considering the president’s motivation for traveling so far and taking time away from the business of the president of the United States to masquerade as the honorary mayor of Chicago, it’s important to remember the vicious outcry from the left with regard to ties between Bush, Dick Cheney and the oil industry, and keep in mind the lack of empirical evidence of any financial favoritism. To the left, everything was about President Bush funneling money to his oil tycoon buddies, from the Iraq War to his relationship with Saudi Arabia to the decision to lift the ban on offshore oil drilling, yet I’ve never seen anything showing specific people or amounts.
Contrast that with Barack Obama’s decision to lobby for Chicago as host of the 2016 Olympic Games. As Michelle Malkin has spelled out beautifully, it’s all about political payback. For the details, spend a few hours at Malkin’s Web site — for now, though, here are a few highlights:
- Chicago Mayor Richard Daley was a prominent backer of Barack Obama. To reward him with the Olympic Games, considering the pay-to-play nature of Windy City politics and the union-heavy construction needed in advance of 2016, would be the ultimate return of favor.
- Patrick Ryan was co-chair of Barack Obama’s presidential inaugural committee. He currently serves at the head of the Chicago 2016 bid committee.
- David Axelrod, senior adviser to the president, still is owed $2 million by AKPD Message and Media, a public relations firm he founded and still the employer of his son. AKPD’s services have been retained by the nonprofit organization established to lure the Games to the Windy City.
- Valerie Jarrett, so close to the president and First Lady that she describes them as “family,” served as vice chair of the bid committee until she was tapped for a position in the White House. Jarrett is the former president and CEO of The Habitat Company, a real estate firm which stands to clean up financially considering its holdings in Olympic-relevant properties. Jarrett, along with another bid committee member, also met with folks at HUD about financing the billion-dollar Olympic Village housing project.
- Penny Pritzker is another close friend of Barack and Michelle Obama, and her Pritzker Realty Group could, like Jarrett’s Habitat, reap financial benefit from Olympics-relevant development.
Yes, it’s always an honor for any nation to host the Olympic Games. Considering how little Barack Obama cares for the honor, dignity, mission and strength of the United States of America, could his decision to lobby for the Olympic Games have been made for any other reason than to funnel billions of dollars to his friends, confidantes and deep-pocketed campaign partners through Chicago’s corrupt political machine? If Barack Obama is so concerned about American honor and so aware of America’s greatness, he wouldn’t be blaming his own nation for the world’s ills and apologizing for her with every chance he gets.
Solipsism Gone Wild
In the same Merriam-Webster dictionary which ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos used to define “tax” for the benefit of a clueless president of the United States, “solipsism” is defined as “a theory holding that the self can know nothing but its own modifications and that the self is the only existent thing.” Also, reads the dictionary, see “extreme egocentrism.”
It is any wonder that “solipsistic” is my single favorite adjective to use when describing Barack and Michelle Obama? On Wednesday, that trait in the First Lady was on full display, and all day yesterday–because of a great piece by Byron York in the Washington Examiner–Americans got to see it for themselves. Having fallen victim to some time constraints, I took slightly longer than that to weigh in. (Sorry!)
For those who haven’t heard, Michelle Obama arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark a day ahead of her husband in order to pitch the International Olympic Committee and encourage the body to name Chicago the host of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Also with her was television host Oprah Winfrey.
The First Lady traveling to Copenhagen is fine by me. Enjoying the city with Oprah? That’s okay, too. Of course, I wonder what the carbon footprint of Oprah, Michelle and Barack’s trips to Copenhagen in three separate private jets looked like, but that’s neither here nor there — my problem with Michelle’s visit stems from her conduct, in particular a single statement noted in York’s commentary:
In her speech in Copenhagen today, First Lady Michelle Obama said her trip to Denmark, along with the travel of her “dear friend” and “chit-chat buddy” Oprah Winfrey, as well as tomorrow’s visit by President Obama, is a “sacrifice” on behalf of the children of Chicago and the United States. “As much of a sacrifice as people say this is for me or Oprah or the president to come for these few days,” the first lady told a crowd of people involved in the Chicago project, “so many of you in this room have been working for years to bring this bid home.”
If this isn’t proof enough of Michelle Obama’s solipsism, that she is absolutely incapable of knowing anything beyond her own bubble, I don’t know what is.
Sacrifice? Sacrifice? While I was able to get a link to Byron York’s piece up in the [Somewhat] Fresh-Picked Assigned Reading section yesterday morning, all day yesterday and into the wee hours of this morning, this has been driving me absolutely crazy. Sacrifice?
Someone should gently take Mrs. Obama by the hand, lead her to the hospital at Walter Reed and introduce her to a brave soldier who lost his legs in the explosion of an improvised explosive device. Someone should suggest that Mrs. Obama sit down with a recently widowed Army wife whose husband gave his life in Afghanistan or Iraq and never had the chance to meet the eight-month-old baby girl she holds in her arms.
Of course, this shouldn’t surprise anybody. This is the same woman who sported a pair of $540 sneakers while serving food at a soup kitchen. Now, I’ve argued before that, as a grown woman, Mrs. Obama can do as she pleases with her own money, but methinks a pattern is beginning to emerge here.
Not convinced? Consider Dana Milbank’s September 18, 2009 story in the Washington Post on the grand opening of the First Lady’s farm market project in the shadow of the White House:
There’s nothing like the simple pleasures of a farm stand to return us to our agrarian roots.
The first lady had encouraged Freshfarm Markets, the group that runs popular farmers markets in Dupont Circle and elsewhere, to set up near the White House, and she helped get the approvals to shut down Vermont Avenue during rush hour on Thursdays. But the result was quite the opposite of a quaint farmers market. Considering all the logistics, each tomato she purchased had a carbon footprint of several tons.
The promotion of organic and locally grown food, though an admirable cause, is a risky one for the Obamas, because there’s a fine line between promoting healthful eating and sounding like a snob. The president, when he was a candidate in 2007, got in trouble in Iowa when he asked a crowd, “Anybody gone into Whole Foods lately and see what they charge for arugula?” Iowans didn’t have a Whole Foods.
For that reason, it’s probably just as well that the first lady didn’t stop by the Endless Summer Harvest tent yesterday. The Virginia farm had a sign offering “tender baby arugula” — hydroponically grown, pesticide free — and $5 for four ounces, which is $20 a pound.
Obama, in her brief speech to the vendors and patrons, handled the affordability issue by pointing out that people who pay with food stamps would get double the coupon value at the market. Even then, though, it’s hard to imagine somebody using food stamps to buy what the market offered: $19 bison steak from Gunpowder Bison, organic dandelion greens for $12 per pound from Blueberry Hill Vegetables, the Piedmont Reserve cheese from Everson Dairy at $29 a pound. Rounding out the potential shopping cart: $4 for a piece of “walnut dacquoise” from the Praline Bakery, $9 for a jumbo crab cake at Chris’s Marketplace, $8 for a loaf of cranberry-walnut bread and $32 for a bolt of yarn.
The first lady said the market would particularly appeal to federal employees in nearby buildings to “pick up some good stuff for dinner.” Yet even they might think twice about spending $3 for a pint of potatoes when potatoes are on sale for 40 cents a pound at Giant. They could get nearly five dozen eggs at Giant for the $5 Obama spent for her dozen.
At worst, it’s complete arrogance. At best, it’s utter ignorance. Somewhere in between, however, lies solipsism. $20 per pound for arugula is fine, and don’t worry if you’re on food stamps — you’ll get twice the value of the coupons at Mrs. Obama’s farm stand. Ladling out chicken soup can do wonders for a person’s soul, and the $540 sneakers are sure comfortable for someone standing for a long period of time — never mind that, for many of the people standing in line with bowl in hand, $540 could be life-changing. And, oh my goodness, traveling across the Atlantic in a plush private jet at taxpayer expense, staying in a plush hotel suite at taxpayer expense, and eating at the finest restaurants with Oprah Winfrey . . . how positively exhausting. What a sacrifice.
Solipsism. A theory holding that the self can know nothing but its own modifications and that the self is the only existent thing. Sound about right?
Regardless of the proper adjective used to describe the president or First Lady, the important thing to take away when it comes to the first family’s excursion to Copenhagen is that focus should be on the issues which are most indicative of this president’s personality and idea of governance. Perpetuating a double standard regarding when and where a president can work seems like the easy way out; the far more effective approach is to highlight aspects of this president and this presidency which will leave a lasting impressions on voters in this country who are just now starting to look at Barack Obama in a different light.