Eric Reeves, a Smith College professor who campaigns tirelessly for Sudan issues, sent us an e-mail some time ago with a link to his latest New Republic story, headlined “Genocide Games.” He makes a few interesting points, some of them quite revelatory, at least for me.
Some of you may remember that President Bush accepted President Hu’s invitation to attend the Beijing Games next year during the APEC summit in Sydney earlier this month. Reeves says this would make Bush the first US president to attend an Olympics Games outside America.
Despite the controversy, President Bush announced last week that he will attend the Games. It’s an unprecedented move–apparently no American president has ever attended an Olympic Games held abroad–and China’s human rights violations make Bush’s decision seem all the more unwarranted.
Let’s see … Chelsea Clinton attended Sydney 2000 in lieu of her dad, Hillary attended Atlanta in ’96, H.W. Bush didn’t attend Barcelona in ’92 (not totally sure on that… but can’t find anything on Google that says otherwise)… so the last two presidents didn’t go to the Olympics. George W. didn’t go to Athens in ’04, either – too busy clearing brush and duking it out with John Kerry, we assume.
But according to the IHT, Franklin Roosevelt attended – of all games – the Berlin Games in 1936. We can’t find any other sources that confirm the fact, though. So is Reeves right or wrong? It’s quite possible that he is right, because the Olympics always fall on the year of a presidential election, but Bush’s schedule will likely be freer than most. Unlike every president since Lyndon Johnson (and most before him), doesn’t have a horse in next year’s race – it will be the first time since 1968 that neither an incumbent president or his vice president has run. It would have been difficult for Roosevelt to get away from campaigning to go to Berlin by ship for the games. Now, if Reeves is right, why does Bush want to set such a precedent in Beijing? Why risk a potentially embarrassing PR backlash if, say, Falungong activists are arrested in Beijing during the games? It’s all very strange.