The Corner

The Torch Has Been Passed Over

A reader passes along this September 12 item from the Chicago Tribune, “2016 Bid Torch Passed To Michelle Obama“:

One observer said the announcement that Mrs. Obama would take the lead convinced him that the president would indeed show up at the 11th hour, creating a bigger splash.

“This is a great strategy to generate much more interest and to have a much greater entrance,” said sports industry expert Marc Ganis, president of SportsCorp Ltd. “His wife can go and represent him. It’s someone senior from the White House and someone who’s much better than Valerie Jarrett, who’s a lovely lady but does not have the gravitas of the president or Michelle.

“And watch, Barack will show up almost unannounced, for a couple hours,” Ganis said. “He’ll give his commitment, look IOC members in the eye and say, ‘I want your vote.’ The same day he’ll be back on Air Force One and back in Washington. This is a wonderful David Axelrod moment.”

Indeed, it was. But perhaps not in the way Mr. Axelrod intended. The report adds:

The first lady, whose approval ratings approach or exceed 70 percent, is sure to add substance and sizzle by virtue of two Ivy League degrees, a spot on Vanity Fair’s International Best Dressed List and her advocacy of a host of pet issues including support for military families, healthy eating and education. 

“Substance and sizzle”? I wonder if the three reporters (three! No wonder the Trib’s bankrupt) who “wrote” the story thought for a moment exactly why that laundry list of “accomplishment” would be likely to resonate with any Swiss, Uzbeks, Fijians, or Mauritians on the IOC.

The other Michelle notes that the First Lady would have been 20 years old when she claimed to be sitting on her dad’s lap watching Carl Lewis. More generally, I found the Obamas’ pitch — the president doing his usual I-I-I-I-I Carmen Miranda routine and the missus citing her father’s multiple sclerosis — oddly reminiscent of the Atlanta Olympics: If you watched the TV coverage in Canada, the Netherlands, Sudan (assuming for the sake of argument that Sudan has network television and that the live sports action pre-empted the local version of “Survivor”), you would have seen people of many lands swimming up pools and running round tracks. If you randomly switched on NBC’s U.S. coverage, you saw sappy soft-focus features accompanied by elevator muzak about this or that heartwarming Ohio shotputter who’d overcome childhood polio or whatnot. The Olympics as covered by NBC wasn’t a contest of sporting excellence but merely another opportunity for the usual wallow in Oprahfied mawkishness.

The Obamas were foolish to try the same drearily parochial tack with a roomful of stony-faced foreigners. But, thanks to the hermetically sealed cocoon the Chicago Tribune et al provide, they’ll no doubt be attempting it with Teheran any day now.

P.S. Maybe the president should have tried this: The prime minister of Canada joins Yo-Yo Ma for “With A Little Help From My Friends.”

Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human-rights activist.

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