Remember the 1980 Moscow Olympics
If you were alive then, and tuned in to the sports world, there's a good chance you really don't recall much at all about them.
Maybe you've forgotten this. But we weren't there.
You see, the Soviet Union had just invaded Afghanistan (we weren't in that country yet, either) and President Jimmy Carter wanted to send the Kremlin a signal.
So, he forced our Olympic athletes to boycott the games. If I recall correctly, I believe he talked about 50 other countries into staying home, too.
The effect Well, Moscow hardly noticed. American athletes, however, who had dedicated their lives training for their shot at the games, were devastated.
And our boycott of Moscow did nothing to get the Soviets out of Afghanistan. It took awhile, but the USSR pretty much decided that, after years of bumbling around that mountainous haven, the country just wasn't worth the effort to try to conquer.
Carter's boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics was one of the more embarrassing moments of his presidency. It still stings today. All of which makes the right-wing reaction to President Barack Obama's attempt to secure Chicago as the site of the upcoming Olympics just a bit, well, strange, I guess. Although that term seems to be inadequate.
How about downright weird.
I am not making this up. Earlier this week, while watching one of the evening talking head political shows that for some reason draws me like a moth to a flame (when I feel like staring at the TV without thinking) some video from a town hall meeting was played.
The scenario has become familiar by now. It was homemade video, shot in herky-jerky fashion, by someone attending a meeting of a Republican member of Congress (whose name I can't recall).
The politician, however, could hardly contain himself. He had just received word that President Obama was not successful in his attempt to attract the games to Chicago; in fact, he said, the Olympic committee decided that the host of the 2016 Summer Olympics will be Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
How do you think the crowd reacted? Were they disappointed? Angry? Visibly upset?
Um, no. They applauded. As if to say, "Thank you, President Obama for making our day by failing."
It's strange, this conservative mindset. I mean, certainly in these rather dismal economic times, we wouldn't want anything as progressive as the most premiere athletic event in the world to be staged within our borders, would we?
The Carter Administration, after deciding to boycott the 1980 Olympics, tried to win over athletes and display their support at high-profile White House gatherings.
One of the people mentioned in the Carter's White House memos as one of "the articulate athletes" whom they might try to enlist to support the boycott was Anita DeFrantz, 27, a member of the women's rowing team and then a member of the U.S.O.C. athletes' advisory committee. DeFrantz recalled the pain of that time when she attended the White House ceremonies with other athletes and her patriotism warred with her disappointment and real questions about the policy. She eventually became an outspoken critic of the action and remains so today.
"It was a pointless exercise and a shameful part of U.S. history," she said in a 1996 interview. "I asked one of the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time, whom they had called on to talk to us athletes, if he could tell me truthfully whether it would save one life – and he couldn't."
DeFrantz conceded that Carter and his Carter Center here have done much to advance peace and improve health and housing in the world. But she said that he, like many Americans, never understood the deep respect among Olympic athletes, transcending nationality.
"It nearly destroyed me," she said. "That the Games have continued to thrive is neither consolation nor solace for that. It's just a fact."
Keeping that bit of history in mind, it seems rather fitting that we should be appreciative that we currently have a president who demonstrates that he understands all of that.
Obama's attempt to bring the Olympics to the U.S. was a noble gesture. The fact that it can be used as a means to criticize him only demonstrates how demonizing and out of touch those critics actually are.