Category Archives: politics

Closing the door on an L.A. Olympics

 

This is just a guess, but I’d say that any prospect Los Angeles had of staging the 2024 Olympics already has been stopped at the border by Donald Trump’s blindly intolerant (and thoroughly un-American) attempt at a Muslim travel ban. I base this, to some extent, on New York City’s failed bid for the 2012 Games, rolled out during the Bush administration’s war in Iraq when at least some International Olympic Committee voters couldn’t get past the idea of “giving the festival of peace to a nation of pre-emptive strikes.”

Post 9/11 and leading up to the 2005 vote to award the 2012 Olympics, President Bush—unlike Trump now—had declared that he was imposing no religious test with his foreign policy. But there already was an anti-diversity elephant in the room. And this time, it is much worse.

So, while there is no divining some IOC members’ allegiances and prejudices, others’ downright partisan governmental considerations and even others’ well-meaning conviction that they are the United Nations in Sneakers, it’s a safe bet that smuggling this grand embodiment of international respect and goodwill past Trump’s wall of xenophobic scorn simply does not compute.

On Feb. 3, L.A. officials met the International Olympic Committee’s formal bid deadline, throwing their hat into the ring with Paris and Budapest. The vote to determine the 2024 host city won’t come until the IOC’s September meeting in Lima, Peru. But already, in response to Trump targeting of seven Muslim-majority countries, Iran has uninvited American athletes to a world wrestling competition it is hosting this month. That is a dramatic reversal in U.S.-Iran relations in that sport, which have been exceptionally warm for years in spite of the lack of diplomatic ties between the countries. The U.S. Olympic Committee, furthermore, is bracing for disruptions in other international competitions as a result of Trump’s executive order.

Naturally, LA2024 bid chairman Casey Wasserman is trotting out the old argument that sports and politics don’t mix, that the “power of the [Olympic] movement…[is]…to unite the world through sport, not politics,” and that his group will be “judged on the merits of our bid, not on politics” by the IOC.

The L.A. proposal makes a point of highlighting that it is “a city full of creative energy and extraordinarily united—not separated—by its breathtaking cultural diversity.” But neither that, nor Trump’s recent radio appearance claiming he “would love to see the Olympics go to Los Angeles,” plays nearly as well as French prime minister Bernard Cazeneuve’s words, during a Paris bid press conference shortly after a man was caught wielding machetes at the Louvre, that his country prefers to “build bridges, not walls.”

L.A. mayor Eric Garcetti had warned last summer that if Trump were elected president, it could have a disastrous effect on his city’s Olympic chances. And, in a statement issued after Trump’s Jan. 27 announcement of his travel ban, Garcetti said such an action “only fans the flames of hatred that those who wish us harm seek to spread.”

Having covered the Games 11 times, I consider myself an Olympic patriot, with a belief in the possibilities of fellowship through global sport. The Games really do (at least temporarily) put small dents into nationalistic and cultural differences, even though so much about the event is thoroughly political, with all the flags and medal counts.

So I side with Olympic poohbahs who balk at rewarding the politics of exclusion. In the 2005 IOC vote for the 2012 Games, when New York City was one in a murderer’s row of seductive candidates alongside London, Paris, Madrid and Moscow, one of the boosts for eventual winner London was the support it had gotten from the Muslim Council of Britain, representing 400 Muslim organizations.

When that vote was taken in Singapore, British prime minister Tony Blair, French president Jacques Chirac and Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero all attended to schmooze with the IOC, but George W. Bush stayed away. Wisely, I’d say.

Now, the USOC is attempting to dance around the Trump us-against-everybody mindset by proclaiming that, “Like the United States, the Olympic Movement was founded based upon principles of diversity and inclusion, on opportunity and overcoming adversity. As the steward of the Olympic Movement in the United States, we embrace those values. We also acknowledge the difficult task of providing for safety and security of a nation. It is our sincere hope that the executive order as implemented will appropriately recognize the values on which our nation, as well as the Olympic Movement, were founded.”

Fat chance.

Or….

?

The first report of the first male First Lady

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Could it be that Roy Blount Jr. is a visionary? In 1990 the humorist, author and one-time sports-journalism brother published “First Hubby/A Novel About a Man Who Happens to be Married to the President of the United States.”

It’s an occasionally absurd tale. The narrator, a good ole boy named Guy Fox, is a writer of modest accomplishment whose spouse, Clementine, has risen through the political ranks to the vice presidency on a third-party ticket. Then, when President DaSilva—his first name never is revealed in the book’s 285 pages—dies when struck by a fish (yes, absurd), Fox suddenly finds himself being “the first male First Lady of the Land.”

There are plenty of puns, silly song lyrics and signature Blount wisecracks. Guy Fox expounds on the Secret Service, social issues, sex, race, the media, politics and about feeling self-conscious to be chewing tobacco in the First Lady’s office. (He relates that the long tradition of tobacco-chewing in the White House included Warren Harding popping whole cigarettes in his mouth and Andrew Johnson once mistaking a senator’s hat for a spittoon.)

There are quirky historical tidbits about several former First Ladies, Fox’s thoughts about raising kids and his observations on the overwhelmingly (and, he insists, unnecessarily) large staff assigned to him. Plus, of course, there is the deliberation on how he ought to be addressed.

“People don’t actually call you Mr. First Spouse, do they?”

“People call me Guy,” he says.

When Blount penned this novel, the closest anyone had come to the fictional Guy Fox’s situation was John Zacarro in 1984, after his wife, Geraldine Ferraro, was chosen by Walter Mondale to be the first female vice-presidential candidate representing a major American political party.

(Mondale didn’t come close to stopping Ronald Reagan’s re-election, and it didn’t help Ferraro that Zacarro, like a certain 2016 Presidential candidate, was a Queens, N.Y., real estate developer who inherited his father’s business and was caught in some bank-financing skulduggery.)

Now, of course, one William Jefferson Clinton could wind up being the first real First Hubby. (During his wife’s original presidential campaign, former President Clinton told Oprah Winfrey in 2007 that his Scottish friends suggested he call himself First Laddie. In recent months, possible titles of First Matie, First Gentleman and First Dude have been thrown around.)

But, about Roy Blount as a political prophet:

Included in “Now, Where Were We?”—a 1989 compilation of his essays from publications such as The Atlantic, Esquire, New York Magazine and Gentleman’s Quarterly—is the piece, “Why It Looks Like I Will Be the Next President of the United States, I Reckon.” In that, Blount envisioned a “brokered” convention, “somebody waiting in the wings” at the end of a chaotic Democratic Party primary that sounded a lot like the Republican’s (un)civil strife this season. Blount wrote how, unlikely as it may have seemed, political bigwigs had to settle on him, someone “perceived as too abstract and austere. A writer, not a politician.”

Which could be overcome, he wrote, by

  1. Lying.
  2. Easing folks’ minds.
  3. Setting an example of the feasibility of getting away with things.

In “First Hubby,” slipped in with his account of romancing Clementine, his thoughts about The Muppets and how he has no interest in autographing pictures for schoolchildren who write in at their teachers’ behest—“Tell them to go climb a tree. That’s what I did when I was their age”—are some fascinating dialogue and situations that could have come from current politicians and pundits.

From Blount’s imaginary President DaSilva:

“People ask me whether I’m not put off by some of the panhandling tactics of the urban homeless. Well, you know it’s not only homelessness that’s up, it’s also shamelessness. If Donald Trump can behave the way he does, then why shouldn’t people go up to strangers in the street, get right up in their face and ask for money?”

A disapproving Donald Trump reference. Right there on Page 170 of a 26-year-old book. The DaSilva character also sounded a bit like Bernie Sanders at times:

“We need a middle-class revolt, which forces the rich to pay for programs that help the poor aspire to that old-fashioned goal, a decent living….”

And what about this Blount song lyric in “First Hubby”?

You got big old hair and a little bitty heart.

I should’ve known about you from the start.

Your pompadour is a work of aaaaaaart—

You got big old hair and a little bitty heart.

I don’t know. I think I could vote for Roy Blount. Even if that would cause his “First Hubby” effort to remain pure fantasy.

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(Roy Blount Jr.)

(Roy Blount Jr.)

Donald Trump for president? Ask the old USFL folks

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For anyone out there who thinks Donald Trump should not run for president, the good news is that Trump has announced he is forming an exploratory committee to consider running for president. Because, by now, the world surely understands that The Donald regularly deals in bunkum, far quicker to offer a bluff than produce a [small-T] trump.

“Americans,” Trump said in a statement threatening his White House campaign, “deserve better than what they get from their politicians—who are all talk and no action.”

Ho, boy. You could say it takes one to know one, and Trump has been road-testing his bluster for more than 30 years. Let me take you back to his most significant involvement in the sports world, when Trump, then 37, spent $9 million to buy the New York Generals in the short-lived United States Football League.

That was in 1984. The USFL, not quite bold enough to take on the established NFL, was organized as a springtime league. At the time Trump, son of a multimillionaire New York builder, already had the reputation as an attention hog. (His chief competitor in the high-powered real-estate world then, Sam Lefrak, said of him, “Kid only knows how to talk, not to build.”)

Still Trump, as the new owner of the Generals, whom he had purchased from Oklahoma oil tycoon J. Walter Duncan, commenced talking about all the things he would build in the USFL–which, it should be said, at least didn’t mind the free publicity.

Trump said he would hire Don Shula, who had just coached the fifth of his six Super Bowl teams in 1983, away from the Miami Dolphins. He said he was negotiating to bring all-NFL lineman Randy White from the Dallas Cowboys. He said he was close to a deal to spirit away all-pro linebacker Lawrence Taylor from the Giants.

None of that happened. When Shula announced his decision to withdraw from Generals consideration, Trump quickly claimed that he—Trump—had pulled back his offer rather than include a Shula apartment in the showy Trump Tower. Shula wryly countered, “I had my press conference first.”

Trump also maintained that, at a meeting of USFL owners shortly after joining their club, “the subject of moving our season to the fall didn’t come up until I brought it up. I brought it up and spoke for a half hour, and when I was finished, if a vote had been taken, I believe it would have been 12-6 or 13-5 in favor of switching to the fall.”

Fellow USFL officials strongly denied that. “I would suggest,” said Vince Lombardi Jr., then president and general manager of the Michigan franchise, “that Don is out there on his own on this. More than any other issue.”

Trump, who said his Manhattan tower had 68 stories when there really were only 59, said the Generals’ season-ticket sales in 1984 were at 40,000, when they actually were at 32,000. (The Generals played in the old Giants Stadium, with a capacity of 77,000.)

Trump had been among the original candidates for USFL ownership in 1983, “but it didn’t work out,” Tampa franchise owner John Bassett told me after Trump came aboard. “Why? That depends on who you talk to. If you talk to me, I tell everybody that he didn’t put up the $5,000 assessment, so we kicked him out. Which is true. If you talk to him, he tells everybody that he was busy with his real estate matters and wanted to play in the fall. Which is also true.”

So there are different angles of truth. But here is what actually happened in the USLF-Trump adventure. As the league dwindled to eight teams, there indeed was a decision to move USFL games to the fall, in direct competition with the NFL, for the 1986 season. Instead, the USFL folded.

And, just this past year, after Trump lost a bidding war to buy the NFL’s Buffalo Bills for $1.4 billion, Trump insisted via Twitter, “Even though I refused to pay a ridiculous price for the Buffalo Bills, I would have produced a winner. Now that won’t happen.”

For anyone out there who is a Bills fan, what did happen may be good news.