'One of the things that I think is most valuable about sports," said President Obama, back in Washington after his sales pitch to the International Olympic Committee could not deliver for Chicago, "is that you can play a great game and still not win."
Obama's face-saving comments came after his dash to Copenhagen -- and a lobbying blitz by first lady Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey -- seemed to do little to bolster Chicago's bid.
White House senior adviser David Axelrod defended the decision for Obama to travel to Denmark to make the closing argument. The trip --less than 24 hours -- was criticized by Republicans as taking the president away from more pressing business at home. And that was before Chicago was knocked out.
"Listen, this president is going to go anywhere he can to promote this country, to try and bring good things back to this country," Axelrod said on MSNBC. "So it isn't exactly like he was gone very long. We truncated the trip so that he wouldn't miss business back home. So I think it was well worth the investment of time, and I have no regrets about that."
I don't think Obama's international reputation suffered an important blow; after all, the leaders of the finalist countries -- the United States, Spain, Japan and Brazil -- all were in Copenhagen. Obama's global brand was dented, but he used the platform to reaffirm the Obama doctrine of engagement with the world, to say the United States wants a new start after the Bush era. That's not a bad long-term investment.
The bottom line is, at home, Obama will not really suffer especially for going to the mat to try to secure the Games for his adopted hometown. The reality is, the politics of the IOC these days practically demands a sales pitch from the bidding country's head of state.
Obama's hopes of a new bipartisan era ushered in by his presidency didn't seem to have much chance of happening before Air Force One headed to Copenhagen. His Republican critics find fault with him no matter what. All this Olympic defeat does is give them something new to complain about.
I think the Republicans and commentators who take Obama on for his Olympic pitch are dealing with nonsense. There are much more substantive issues to challenge Obama on than going to bat for his country.