I was stunned by the news from Copenhagen about Chicago's Olympic bid, not because I cared all that much about where the 2016 Olympics end up, but because I had convinced myself that President Obama wouldn't have put the prestige of his office on the line without having some inside knowledge that Chicago's acceptance was a done deal. Yeah, right.
Most presidential administrations begin with a period of almost giddy hubris in the White House. This is a bit different from the "honeymoon" they always talk about, which has to do with some vaguely defined period of goodwill extended to the new president by Congress and the public. It's arrogance, pure and simple. It's as if the enormous power of the office starts to deprive the president and his staff of more and more of their normal common sense and judgment. They don't sense the limits of their power until they're forced to confront it by some embarrassing public humiliation. It's after this that the real presidency begins.
For Kennedy, it was the Bay of Pigs. Chicago's getting so ignominiously kicked off Mt. Olympus was hardly a tragedy. Nobody was killed. But what the defeat lacked in tragic dimensions, it made up for in the farce of humbled hubris. It was all the more embarrassing for being so gratuitous. Obama had already said he wasn't going. It made his knuckling under to narrow parochial interests seem all the more inept, once the results came in.
Maybe this is the wake-up call President Obama needed. It's not as if his leadership on healthcare in the last few months hasn't suffered from a lot of the same ineptitude. We can only hope he's becoming aware that good words are not enough. Healthcare would be a good place to begin. And some real economic reform. The new unemployment figures today are horrible -- 9.8% unemployment, with the "real rate" up to 17%.