CBS’s Schieffer Sees No Problem With Obama Olympic Trip

Bob Schieffer, CBS Appearing on Tuesday’s CBS Early Show, Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer shrugged off any concerns over President Obama traveling to Copenhagen to lobby for the 2016 Olympics in Chicago: "I mean, being associated with the Olympics has always been good politics for presidents....I don’t think it’s going to make any difference to the success or failure of the Obama presidency."

Co-host Harry Smith agreed with Schieffer’s assessment: "Fourteen hours on an airplane will not make or break his presidency, I think we can go along with that." However, Smith still worried about the political fallout: "But doesn’t this seem awfully risky for this president to do right now?...we’ve got Iran coming to a boiling point, Afghanistan waiting for a decision on how many troops should or should not be sent there, health care bubbling back on the back burner. Does he have time to do this?"

Such skepticism from Smith was certainly a change from his declaration on Monday’s Evening News: "The Olympic motto is ‘swifter, higher, stronger.’ Apparently, President Obama is taking that to heart. In a change of plans today, the President decided he will go to Denmark to try to win the 2016 summer games for his hometown."

On Tuesday, Schieffer responded to the question raised by Smith about whether Obama had the time to make the trip: "Oh, I think he – the White House would argue that he does. And I mean, you could make the case that he doesn’t, but, again, I mean he’s not going to decide what to do about Afghanistan over the next 24 hours." Given the fact that Afghanistan commander General Stanley McChrystal has been pleading with the administration over the urgent need for more troops, one wonders why the President would not make such a decision within the next 24 hours.

Prior to Smith’s discussion with Schieffer, correspondent Jeff Glor reported on the President’s Olympic push: "This has been a controversial bid at times, but the city is now hoping that sending a high profile delegation will put them over the top....It will be the first time a sitting president has made such a trip. A sign of how badly Mr. Obama wants the games in his adopted hometown."

Glor did also cite criticism of the bid: "Chicago’s Olympic organizers believe the games will cost about $5 billion to stage, but would generate $22.5 billion for the local economy. Though critics say that both of those numbers are far too optimistic. And they point to a recent Chicago Tribune poll that shows support for the games in this city has dropped to 47%." A clip was played of No Games Chicago member Tom Tresser: "This thing is going to be financially ruinous as well as environmentally disastrous."

Glor concluded his report: "Up until the President’s announcement, Rio De Janeiro was considered the slight favorite to win these games in 2016, with Chicago running a close second. The President, obviously, is hoping to change that."

Here is a full transcript of the Early Show segment:

7:00AM TEASE:

HARRY SMITH: President Obama gets set to go to Denmark. The first ever presidential pitch to bring the Olympics to Chicago.

VALERIE JARRETT: He decided that he could leave for just one day.

SMITH: But with health care, the Afghan war and problems with Iran, does he have too much on his plate for a trip like this? We’ll ask our own Bob Schieffer.

7:01AM SEGMENT:

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Right now we want to get right to our top story. The unprecedented decision by President Obama, who is hoping to win gold by traveling himself to Copenhagen to help Chicago snag the 2016 summer Olympics. But his decision is not without political risk. CBS News national correspondent Jeff Glor is in Chicago this morning with more. Good morning, Jeff.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Going for Gold, Obama Makes Pitch for Chicago Olympics]

JEFF GLOR: Maggie, good morning to you. That’s exactly right, the President, as you know, already has plenty on his plate and Chicago winning these games is by no means a sure thing. This has been a controversial bid at times, but the city is now hoping that sending a high profile delegation will put them over the top. The most well-known members of the lobbying team have not left yet, including Oprah Winfrey, First Lady Michelle Obama-

BARACK OBAMA: Let the games begin!

GLOR: -and her husband, the President, who changed his mind about traveling on Monday.

VALERIE JARRETT: He decided that he could leave for just one day, a single day, and be back in time to keep going on health care reform.

GLOR: Ahead of the President, the aptly numbered United Flight 2016 left Chicago last night for Copenhagen with 250 boosters on board, after a rousing sendoff.

NASTIA LIUKIN [OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST, GYMNASTICS]: It would just mean – it just gives me goose bumps even thinking about it. And I mean, it just – it would be amazing.

GLOR: It will be the first time a sitting president has made such a trip. A sign of how badly Mr. Obama wants the games in his adopted hometown. He’ll be joined by the heads of state from each of Chicago’s three rivals. Rio De Janeiro, Tokyo, and Madrid.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN [NARRATOR, CHICAGO OLYMPIC PROMO]: At this village center-

GLOR: Chicago’s Olympic organizers believe the games will cost about $5 billion to stage, but would generate $22.5 billion for the local economy. Though critics say that both of those numbers are far too optimistic. And they point to a recent Chicago Tribune poll that shows support for the games in this city has dropped to 47%.

TOM TRESSER [NO GAMES CHICAGO]: This thing is going to be financially ruinous as well as environmentally disastrous.

GLOR: Up until the President’s announcement, Rio De Janeiro was considered the slight favorite to win these games in 2016, with Chicago running a close second. The President, obviously, is hoping to change that. The winning bid is announced on Friday afternoon. Harry, back to you.

SMITH: Jeff Glor in Chicago this morning, thank you very much. Joining us now is Bob Schieffer, CBS News chief Washington correspondent and host of Face the Nation. Good morning, Bob.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Good morning, Harry.

SMITH: You know, this tactic worked for Tony Blair, he got the Olympics to London. It worked for Vladimir Putin, he got the Olympics to Russia. We can see why there’s precedent here. But doesn’t this seem awfully risky for this president to do right now?

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: A Full Presidential Plate; Takes On Iran, Health Care, Afghan War & Olympics]

SCHIEFFER: You know, I really don’t think so Harry. I mean, being associated with the Olympics has always been good politics for presidents. I mean, think of Ronald Reagan, I mean, he tied his whole re-election campaign ‘Morning in America’ to the Olympics that summer in Los Angeles. I think, in the end, you and I will talk about this, a lot of the chattering class will debate it back and forth, but in the end, I don’t think it’s going to make any difference to the success or failure of the Obama presidency. If the Obama presidency goes down because – because Barack Obama went to Copenhagen, it wasn’t much of a presidency to start with. I think – I think this President’s success will be judged by how other things come out, not the least of which is Afghanistan, Iran and health care.

SMITH: Fourteen hours on an airplane will not make or break his presidency, I think we can go along with that. But at the same time, we’ve got Iran coming to a boiling point, Afghanistan waiting for a decision on how many troops should or should not be sent there, health care bubbling back on the back burner. Does he have time to do this?

SCHIEFFER: Oh, I think he – the White House would argue that he does. And I mean, you could make the case that he doesn’t, but, again, I mean he’s not going to decide what to do about Afghanistan over the next 24 hours. Those are the questions, though, that really do count. And I have to tell you right now there is a total and wholesale reassessment of our strategy in Afghanistan going on. Remember in March, the President told us that he had a new strategy, he sent a new general over there to carry out that strategy. Now here we are going over that total strategy once again. How many troops is he going to wind up sending? Or is he going to send no troops? The answer to that, Harry, is the President simply hasn’t decided yet. We have a total reassessment of what to do about Afghanistan going on within the White House and throughout the administration right now.

SMITH: Bob Schieffer, thanks so much for getting up for us this morning. Do appreciate it.

SCHIEFFER: You bet, Harry.

SMITH: Thank you, sir.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC