Obama’s Olympic flip-flop

posted at 7:43 am on July 24, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

Just a couple of weeks ago, Barack Obama reiterated his position that President Bush should boycott the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics.  Specifically, he criticized the administration for not being “aggressive in encouraging the Chinese government to make serious concessions,” and that in the absence of progress Obama would not have attended. However, as Ad Age reports, Obama has no problem sponsoring the opening ceremonies and the Games:

It’s official. Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign will be among the TV sponsors of NBC Universal’s Olympics coverage. In the first significant network-TV buy of any presidential candidate in at least 16 years, the Obama campaign has taken a $5 million package of Olympics spots that includes network TV as well as cable ads.

According to NBC’s political file, the campaign had initially requested information about 500,000, $2 million and $4 million package of Olympics spots. The network also offered the candidate a $10 million package.

For what it’s worth, I actually agreed with Obama and John McCain on this point.  Given China’s actions in Tibet this year and their overall record on human rights, it is a little inappropriate for Western leaders to attend the opening ceremonies.  The threat of such a boycott forced Beijing to start dealing with the Dalai Lama to improve their record in Tibet, but talks thus far have produced no real results.

Obama’s decision to sponsor the Games in print and television ads after criticizing Bush’s plans for attendance belies the moral posturing Obama took on the Beijing Games.   It supports the same false show by the Chinese that Obama demanded Bush reject.  Sponsorship doesn’t just imply support, it explicitly demonstrates it with large amounts of money.

Maybe Obama can explain how throwing money at the Games constitutes “more aggressive” action to convince China to improve its human-rights record in a way that Bush’s attendance does not.  I doubt that any of the mostly-sycophantic media following Obama on his World Tour will bother to ask him about this flip-flop, however.


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Not going to the opening ceremony is an empty gesture. It makes us look like we’re trying to put pressure on them when we’re really not, and if we were, it’s a lameass way to do it. More consideration needs to be made any time we make a move regarding China, not this reactionary “well im not going to your party anymore” crap

ernesto on July 24, 2008 at 7:54 AM

I’m boycotting the Olympics, but it’s as much of a hardship as boycotting the Boston Globe.

I’m inclined to agree with Will Rogers about Chinese people, but I despise their government. Their lack of product safety possibly contributed to the death of one of our cats.

fluffy on July 24, 2008 at 7:55 AM

The ratings for the Olympics have steadily gone down for the past 16 years, so I am wondering why a campaign person would think this to be a venue that would attract voters. Most people get the schedule of what they want to see and specifically watch that and when the event is on commercial or over, switch channels. My guess is that Daley asked for this…Daley is banking on 2016 coming to Chicago, and wouldn’t it look great if the senator from the state of IL bought ad time from them?

Pam on July 24, 2008 at 8:11 AM

Boycotting the olympics is a great way to slap the faces of all our world’s top athletes. They are not responsible for the way the host governments conduct themselves.

That said, the olympic committee needs to use more discretion when choosing the olympic host nation. China is not deserving of this honor, but to take it out on the athletes is unfair.

ballz2wallz on July 24, 2008 at 8:13 AM

For what it’s worth, I actually agreed with Obama and John McCain on this point. Given China’s actions in Tibet this year and their overall record on human rights, it is a little inappropriate for Western leaders to attend the opening ceremonies.

I know this isn’t the main point of your piece, but I’ve thought that George Bush’s saving of the Chinese face is a bigger story than has been reported. Also, I think some US arms sales to Taiwan were just canceled. My guess is that this is somehow related to Iran.

JiangxiDad on July 24, 2008 at 8:16 AM

First a nascar, now the olympics. This is getting embarrassing. He is stripping all the dignity out of the POTUS position.

Don’t Marxists hate capitalism?

ctmom on July 24, 2008 at 8:16 AM

By Obama’s standard, this is a minor hypocrisy.

TheBigOldDog on July 24, 2008 at 8:26 AM

With the left, crap like this doesn’t really matter.

We have so much history to tell us this, so why the hell do they care?

benrand on July 24, 2008 at 8:30 AM

unbelievable.

trailortrash on July 24, 2008 at 8:39 AM

By Obama’s standard, this is a minor hypocrisy.

TheBigOldDog on July 24, 2008 at 8:26 AM

The media’s too. It will probably go pretty much unnoticed, but it is another straw on the camels back. He’s got another couple of months to continue blundering around the world. Hopefully more people will start feeling queasy about the guy as a careens all over the map, literally and figuratively.

forest on July 24, 2008 at 8:42 AM

China won’t actually receive any of the ad revenue though, will they?

Typhonsentra on July 24, 2008 at 8:47 AM

1. The west really pu*sied out with all its tough talk on boycotting and egging the Chinese government’s face and then it turns out everybody’s going. Typical.

2. Obama definitely flip flopped. Idiot.

Dave Rywall on July 24, 2008 at 8:57 AM

I can just imagine the ads now. They will portray Obama as an Olympic athlete with a different sport for each ad. He’s setting world records. Fans are screaming his name. The ads won’t mention where he stands on the issues, they will just show how much everyone loves Barry and how much Barry loves Barry.

Greenhorn on July 24, 2008 at 9:01 AM

Okay, so he’s having ads during the Olympics, but he thinks President Bush should boycott the Olympics. He wants to be President for the next 8 to 10 years – is he going to boycott the Olympics during that time?

I won’t be watching the Olympics at all. It’s become something of a joke. Rampant steroid abuse and cheaters, people exploiting their wins for money and prosties, poor sportsmanship, etc, etc, etc. I stopped watching the Olympics a long time ago (after the Tonya/Nancy thing) and the Beijing thing was just the last nail in the coffin for me.

So whatevs for Obamessiah. Waste money, be a pussy about debates, refuse to appear at townhall meetings with McCain. Clearly such a good Presidential candidate….

mjk on July 24, 2008 at 9:03 AM

Between this and Obama’s Whirlwind World Tour, I have come to one conclusion –

Obama isn’t running for President, he’s running to be the next Cylon Imperious Leader so he can rule the world.

Outlander on July 24, 2008 at 9:14 AM

Sounds more like a payoff to NBC for their faithful service to his majesty. Knighthood for Olberman to follow.

snickelfritz on July 24, 2008 at 9:16 AM

Well, to be fair, Obama is sponsoring the coverage of the Olympics, not the Olympics themselves. Thus, I think this post is off the mark.

Seixon on July 24, 2008 at 9:18 AM

Well, to be fair, Henry Ford was sponsoring the book, “The Eternal Jew”, not the Nazis themselves. So calling Henry Ford a Nazi sympathizer is way off the mark.

mjk on July 24, 2008 at 9:24 AM

Given China’s actions in Tibet this year and their overall record on human rights, it is a little inappropriate for Western leaders to attend the opening ceremonies.

I disagree and think one of the major problems is how political they have come that distract from what the purpose of them is suppose to be.

JeffinSac on July 24, 2008 at 9:28 AM

It’s the Olympics, for chrissake. Bush is supporting our athletes — he’s right and the naysayers are wrong. Anyone who sees his going to the opening ceremonies as a tacit endorsement of human oppression needs a nap.

Barack? Well, this was just another opportunity to see what a colossal liar he is.

D2Boston on July 24, 2008 at 9:30 AM

Given that the Olympics are going to be happening in a very inconvenient time zone, who is going to bother watching them in the US?

gridlock2 on July 24, 2008 at 9:32 AM

I disagree. Boycotting the opening ceremony is just going to tick off the Chinese leadership by making them appear to lose face.

The rank stupidity is that The Obamassiah wants to go to Tehran and have a face to face meeting with the Iranian government, without preconditions, but on the other hand wants Bush to strain relations with an up and coming superpower by boycotting the opening ceremony. Shouldn’t we be cultivating a good relationship with China, or is that only reserved for our worst enemies? Just further proof that Barack is not ready to be president.

rbj on July 24, 2008 at 9:40 AM

From a demographic targeting strategy, this probably isn’t that bad a move for Obama. Anybody who’s watched Summer Olympic coverage over the past 20 years is pretty much in agreement that NBC’s coverage blows chunks, if you’re actually interested in watching the competitors compete — If you’re tuning in to be swamped with a deluge of up-close-and-personal profiles that totally overwhelm coverage of the actual events, then NBC’s coverage is the bees’ knees.

NBC’s goal over the years has been to turn the target audience of their Olympic broadcasts away from 18-25 and 25-49 male viewers to female viewers, the same group that is normally more pro-Democratic than male voters, but some of whom are a little cool to Barack right now because of how he and his campaign treated Hillary. The Obama Olympic ads on a woman-targeted NBC broadcast might marignally help him with that demo in November.

jon1979 on July 24, 2008 at 9:53 AM

That’s BO flip-flop #19.

jgapinoy on July 24, 2008 at 9:55 AM

jgapinoy on July 24, 2008 at 9:55 AM

I think he’s going for the Olympic Gold Medal in flip flopping.

becki51758 on July 24, 2008 at 10:17 AM

It’s still more than a month until Labor day. Still time for a clothing company to start marketing Obama flipflop beach sandals. Preferably with Mr. Marxist’s face on the bottom……………

adamsmith on July 24, 2008 at 10:24 AM

Time for a clothing company to start marketing the Emperor Obama’s New Clothes.

Steve Z on July 24, 2008 at 10:49 AM

First, one has to remember that the Obama does no wrong for good is what the Obama is and good is what the Obama does, no matter what.

jukin on July 24, 2008 at 11:14 AM

I will boycott viewing them because they are on NBC.

roninacreage on July 24, 2008 at 11:50 AM

Bush is right to go.

And Obama?He we probably give a speech at the Monument to the People’s Heroes (that is, those who died fighting for the Commies) in Tiananmen Square, to 500,000 adoring Chinese people.

p40tiger on July 24, 2008 at 11:50 AM

Bush has the right idea, he said he’d go and thus he can threaten to leave if China doesn’t take actions, he can use his idea of going as leverage.

All these other leaders just said, I’m not going, they walked a way and did nothing to help anyone. It would have been better to play hardball till the last minute instead of just saying I’m not going and thats a good deed.

Rbastid on July 24, 2008 at 12:32 PM

Some people really miss the point here… The Olympic games are not political, which is why its good that China got an opportunity to host this year. Yes, they have human rights abuses, but how do you change that? You certainly don’t change people’s perspectives by ignoring them, you lead by example. The benefits of hundreds of thousands of non-Chinese people flooding Beijing gives many Chinese exposure to the western world they may not have had before. When people are immersed in western culture, they end up wanting a piece of it. If you want to boycott the games and/or the all-important opening ceremonies, you diminish the spirit of what the Olympic Games stands for.

The guy who revived the Olympics said “Let us export our oarsmen, our runners, our fencers into other lands. That is the true Free Trade of the future; and the day it is introduced into Europe the cause of Peace will have received a new and strong ally.” This is the one global event that everyone is supposed to lay down their arms and come together to show off their commitment to world peace by competing fairly without antagonism for a small window of time. Boycotts do not bring peace. Boycotts isolate the both the reformers and the reformees. If you can’t come together in the spirit of the Olympic games, then really, how badly could you really want peace?

You’d think Mr. HopenChange would get that, Bush gets it, and he’s not going to boycott. He understands that this is not a political event, he is there to show support for our American athletes. He will talk to China’s leader about human rights abuses before, during and after the Olympic Games. The Olympic Spirit is our global commitment to participate no matter what wars we are fighting, what color our skin is, or what problems we face, the point is we are in this together.

All you boycotters out there scare people like me. Racism isn’t just an American deficiency, it is rampant throughout the world. Boycott if you must, but know that your actions say to me that you are against the ONE peaceful event meant to bring the world and all it’s people together as one.

And I won’t miss you being there.

Califemme on July 24, 2008 at 12:38 PM

Lord Obama (praise be his holy name) doesn’t flip-flop, he does the hokey-pokey.

Pcoop on July 24, 2008 at 12:40 PM

Just Words.

danking70 on July 24, 2008 at 2:33 PM