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Steele Hits Obama For Olympics Trip, But Squirms When Reporter Pointedly Asks Him If It’s A ‘Mistake’

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"Steele Hits Obama For Olympics Trip, But Squirms When Reporter Pointedly Asks Him If It’s A ‘Mistake’"

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Today in an RNC conference call, chairman Michael Steele criticized President Obama for going to Copenhagen, Denmark this week to pitch Chicago as the site of the 2016 Olympics. Steele said that “at a time of war, at a time of recession,” Obama’s short trip would distract him from focusing on pressing problems.

Steele basically tried to argue that the country couldn’t move forward with Obama in Copenhagen, saying that Obama should tell the public if he wants the country to make the Olympics “the priority” as his job-creation program:

STEELE: If the priority is the Olympics in seven years, okay, then tell the nation that’s the priority and that’s what we should be focused on because we’ll create jobs then and we won’t worry about it between now and 2016. But if the goal is to create jobs here in America today, then let’s do that.

After the RNC chairman bashed Obama over the Olympics for several minutes, Baltimore Sun reporter Paul West asked Steele, “So are you saying that it’s a mistake for him to go to Copenhagen?” Steele tried to dodge the question (eliciting an audible sigh from West), and eventually tersely cut off West when he tried to follow-up:

PAUL WEST, BALTIMORE SUN: Hi, I just wanted to follow-up on that last question: So are you saying that it’s a mistake for him to go to Copenhagen?

STEELE: You know, a mistake is in the eye of the beholder. I just don’t think it’s necessary. I mean, I don’t know the judgment behind the President going. [...]

WEST: Okay, but I’m still not clear. Is it a mistake in your eyes?

STEELE: My eyes don’t — What do you mean, my eyes?

WEST: Well, you said a mistake is in the eyes of the beholder. I’m wondering if you think it’s a mistake?

STEELE: I gave you my answer, Paul.

Listen here:

The whole trip will take approximately 18 hours. The New York Times reported:

Moreover, aides noted that it would be a relatively small time investment. Mr. Obama will leave Thursday evening and fly overnight, arriving in Copenhagen just in time to join Chicago’s final presentation Friday morning, when he and the first lady will address the committee. He returns to Washington on Friday afternoon.

So according to Steele, Obama spending 18 hours to promote an event that has the opportunity to increase U.S. prestige, generate $22.5 billion in economic activity, and the equivalent of 315,000 new full-time jobs must mean that he has completely abandoned his entire policy agenda and plans to now spend all his time on this issue. Does this mean that Obama is no longer overexposed?

Transcript:

BETH FOUHY, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Just to clarify — You said that you’re concerned that the President and the Democrats have lost focus, and you did reference the President’s upcoming trip to Copenhagen as an example of perhaps where he’s lost focus. I just want to clarify if indeed that’s the case, if that’s yet another example of him not concentrating on jobs and the economy and health care?

STEELE: I do very much, Beth. I think while it’s a noble idea for the President to want to pitch his home city, Chi-town, for the Olympics — and of course America would be more than honored to host the Olympics in the future — I think at a time of war, at a time of recession, at a time where Americans have expressed rather significantly their concerns and frustrations over the course of the spring and the summer about health care, about the economy, about a host of domestic issues — and even international issues — I think that this trip, while nice, is not necessary for the President. [...]

But the goal is, should be, creating not job opportunities seven years from now, but job opportunities today. [...]

PAUL WEST, BALTIMORE SUN: Hi, I just wanted to follow-up on that last question: So are you saying that it’s a mistake for him to go to Copenhagen?

STEELE: You know, a mistake is in the eye of the beholder. I just don’t think it’s necessary. I mean, I don’t know the judgment behind the President going. [...]

If the priority is the Olympics in seven years, okay, then tell the nation that’s the priority and that’s what we should be focused on because we’ll create jobs then and we won’t worry about it between now and 2016. But if the goal is to create jobs here in America today, then let’s do that.

WEST: Okay, but I’m still not clear. Is it a mistake in your eyes?

STEELE: My eyes don’t — What do you mean, my eyes?

WEST: Well, you said a mistake is in the eyes of the beholder. I’m wondering if you think it’s a mistake?

STEELE: I gave you my answer, Paul.

Update

Former Massachusetts governor and head 2002 Olympic Organizing Committee Mitt Romney endorsed Obama’s decision to go to Copenhagen: “I think the people in the IOC want to understand the level of the commitment of the host country. Does the host country really care? Is this going to be a high priority? And nothing says that like having the presence of the leader of that country and, particularly, the case of Barack Obama.”

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