NPR sports-and-culture correspondent Mike Pesca appeared on MSNBC's "Up With Steve Kornacki" on Sunday to discuss the Winter Olympics in Russia and how Obama is sending gay Olympians and gay tennis legend Billie Jean King instead of going himself. Kornacki asked Pesca "What is your sense of what the atmosphere is going to be like for gay athletes? And just in general, the atmosphere is going to be like at these games?"
Pesca began by mocking America: "Yeah, well, they`re going to have protest zones which seems un-American -- except, you know, America has used them for political conventions and stuff." Then he turned to quoting how Obama's decision is a "brilliant snub" of "soft power" that leaves Vladimir Putin sputtering at Obama's cleverness.
PESCA: NPR did an interview with Masha Gessen, who is a writer who wrote a biography of Putin. She`s gay. She is leaving Russia - I think she left Russia two days ago because she's essentially been targeted. She wrote the best biography I read of Putin and she called it a brilliant snub. And so, I think, using soft power like this is actually the best way to get at Putin.
I think Putin, from what I understand about him, is a man who understands force, who understands crushing the opposition, but if you can use a little jujitsu, if you could be a little bit clever and use his moves against him, you're probably making a statement that he doesn't know how to deal with. So that`s why maybe what these moves does gains the upper hand for the United States or people who are agreeing with us, that these are rules in Russia are unconscionable. [Emphasis mine.]
Pesca restated Gessen's praise for Obama in an appearance on CNN on Christmas morning: "Russia has a rule against protesting, well what they consider protesting, speaking out in favor of gay rights. It's just casting a pall over the entire Olympics. A gay rights activist called President Obama's appointment of a delegation that including Billy Jean King and Brian Boitano. These gay rights activists called it a brilliant snub. So I think we'll have a chance to see diplomacy trump hard power in the Olympics."
These were liberal bias zones where no one would get in the way of Pesca's leg thrills and ask if Russia is so much more oppressive than they were during the Olympics boycott of the Soviet Union in 1980. Was the law against pro-gay lobbying more of a moral outrage than the invasion of Afghanistan or the domestic oppression under the communists? For liberals, it seems the obvious answer is yes.
Gessen's original outburst of praise for Obama on NPR came on the December 20 Morning Edition:
GESSEN: In fact, I would link all of those steps to the brilliant snub that President Obama performed a couple of days ago. Basically this entire fall there has been this push for a political boycott of the Olympics. A political boycott is when athletes go but state leaders do not. This month a number of Western European leaders began carefully saying that they will probably not go to the Olympics.
And it began with the president of Germany, then the president of Estonia, then France. And then finally, President Obama on December 17th announced his delegation to the Olympics, which for the first time in almost two decades does not include any head politician. It also quite pointedly includes several openly gay athletes. I think that Putin panicked. I think for the first time he had this vision of being alone during the opening and closing ceremonies.