Today’s NBC coverage of the opening of the Sochi Olympics will include a full interview with Barack Obama, who seems to be making the sports circuit these days. NBC leaked a little of the taped interview ahead of its broadcast later today, including an exchange regarding Vladmir Putin and his relationship with the Russian autocrat. They get along better than people think, Obama told Bob Costas, but that’s because Putin’s “tough-guy schtick” is usually only in play to impress Russians:
“I wouldn’t call it icy. The truth of the matter is that when we are in meetings there are a lot of exchanges, there’s a surprising amount of humor, and a lot of give and take,” Obama said in an interview with NBC’s Bob Costas according to an NBC News transcript.
He added that he has always been treated by Putin “with the utmost respect.”
Obama also commented on Putin’s demeanor , suggesting in the words first reported in a now-deleted tweet from an NBC researcher, that the Russian president’s “bored, tough guy ‘schtick’ [is] aimed at internal audience.”
Interestingly, Obama declined to play along with Costas on the reason for his absence from the Olympic Games — and the absence of high-ranking American politicians in general. Everyone knows the actual reason: Obama wants to highlight the crackdown on Russian gays and lesbians by his absence. Obama told Costas, though, that his appearance would distract attention from the athletes, according to Politico’s reading of the transcript. That’s rather threadbare nonsense, as world leaders attend the opening ceremonies on a regular basis, but it does keep an already-deteriorating diplomatic situation from getting even worse, especially since the US has to partner with Putin on security for the Games to some extent.
On that score, Obama rushed to assure people that Russia is capable of securing the Sochi athletes and visitors:
On the topic of LGBT tolerance, Putin and the Russian Olympic Committee clearly feel the need to demonstrate that their laws and actions aren’t discriminatory. What better way to do that than to feature a has-been singing act that pretended to be lesbian at the opening ceremony?
The fake lesbian Russian pop act t.A.T.u., who enjoyed global popularity in the mid-2000s, will perform at the Sochi Olympics’ opening ceremony on Feb. 7, the Russian media reported.
According to reports, which quoted eyewitnesses of the ceremony’s rehearsals, Lena Katina and Yulia Volkova will sing their biggest international hit, “Not Gonna Get Us.” During the performance of the track, the Russian Olympic squad is to enter the ceremony.
Formed in 1999 by producer Ivan Shapovalov, who selected then-14-year-old Volkova and 15-year-old Katina from scores of candidates, the duo soon achieved scandalous fame, cashing in heavily on themes of teenage sex and lesbian love (even the Russian version of the duo’s name implies sex between two women). Both members of the duo are, however, known to be heterosexual.
This sounds like it might be potentially as painful to watch and embarrassing as the UK’s dance number celebrating their nationalized health-care system. Well, all right, nothing would be more painful to watch than that, save for a speech from Donna Edwards, but I’m still not going to be watching tonight.
Update: Nancy Pelosi is less reserved about the reason for her distaste for Sochi.
Update: A good point from Ben Shapiro:
While President Obama dismisses Putin's "tough-guy schtick," Putin is spanking Obama in the Middle East.
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) February 7, 2014