I must admit I was a little surprised to read this scathing account of cluelessness and incompetence in the effort to land the 2016 Olympics for Chicago in the New York Times … until I realized it ran in the Sports section. However, political reporters Jeff Zeleny and Peter Baker wrote it, and their inside look at the run-up and the reaction at the White House shows just how much this administration has bought its own press:
Losing out on the Olympics, of course, is not the sort of war-and-peace issue that defines a presidency, and the embarrassment will presumably fade in a news cycle or two. But it provides fodder for critics who are already using it as a metaphor for a president who, in their view, focuses on the wrong priorities and overestimates his capacity to persuade the world to follow his lead. …
A sense of stunned bewilderment suffused Air Force One and the White House. Only after the defeat did many advisers ask questions about the byzantine politics of the Olympic committee. Valerie Jarrett, the president’s senior adviser and a Chicago booster who persuaded him to make the trip while at the United Nations last week, had repeatedly compared the contest to the Iowa caucuses.
But officials said the administration did not independently verify Chicago’s chances, relying instead on the Chicago 2016 committee assertions that the city had enough support to finish in the top two. Mr. Obama, Michelle Obama, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Ms. Jarrett worked the phones in recent weeks without coming away with a sense of how behind Chicago really was.
Let’s see. The White House jumped in front of a situation without understanding it, relying on the word of political cronies to shape their comprehension without checking for themselves. Only after they failed did they ask themselves about the political environment in which they made their proposal. Are we talking about ObamaCare, cap-and-trade, or the Olympics? It’s hard to tell.
No one can accuse the Times of assigning an Obama-hater to this story, either. The last we mentioned Zeleny, he was hitting Obama with a hard-hitting question about how enchanted he was with being President. It doesn’t sound like Zeleny and Baker are terribly enchanted with Obama and his staff at the moment, nor should they be.
In short, this is a microcosm of the entire administration. They entered into a situation about which they knew nothing and put the prestige of the presidency on the line without bothering to listen past themselves and the Daley Machine in Chicago. It only occurred to them that they didn’t know the first thing about the situation until after having wasted their time and distracting themselves from much more pressing — and presidential — matters of war and the economy.
It’s not the end of the world, but perhaps it’s finally the end of the fawning and obsequious assumptions of brilliance about Barack Obama that have informed his media treatment since January 2007.