April 8th, 2008
03:30 PM ET
6 years ago

Bush may skip opening ceremonies of Olympics

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino left the door open Bush may not attend the opening ceremonies.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino left the door open Bush may not attend the opening ceremonies.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - For the first time, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino Tuesday left the door open to President Bush skipping the opening ceremonies of the Olympics in Beijing to protest China's crackdown in Tibet and human rights record.

Asked by CNN at an on-camera briefing if Bush will specifically attend the opening ceremonies in Beijing, Perino would not be definitive. "We haven't provided any schedules on the president's trip," she said.

Pressed on whether Bush's decision to attend the Olympics is "irreversible" or could be affected by developments, Perino hedged. "Any time the president - the president can always make a change," she said. "But the President has been clear that this is a sporting event for the athletes and that pressuring China before, during and after the Olympics is the best way for us to try to help people across the board in China, not just Tibetans."

What the president has not been clear on is whether or not he will attend the opening ceremonies, which are typically a major showcase for the host country. Bush has only said he will attend the Olympics in general, stressing he's a sports fan who wants to support U.S. athletes at the games.

But Bush is under heavy pressure from Democrats like Speaker Nancy Pelosi to boycott the opening ceremonies as a protest against the Chinese government's handling of Tibet among other issues, a move endorsed by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Monday. Pelosi has suggested skipping the opening ceremonies would be better than a full-scale U.S. boycott of the entire Olympics.

"I think boycotting the opening ceremony, which really gives respect to the Chinese government, is something that should be kept on the table," Pelosi told ABC News earlier this month. "I think the president might want to rethink this later, depending on what other heads of state do."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a key Bush ally, has suggested she will boycott the opening ceremonies. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, another Bush ally, has also left the door open to such a protest.

Some news organizations have incorrectly assumed Bush will attend the opening ceremonies, but the President has never been specific about which parts of the Olympics he will attend or not attend, leaving him some wiggle room when the games get closer.

Back in September after a meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao at the APEC Summit in Australia, Bush first disclosed he would attend the Olympics. Bush spoke very generally by saying the Chinese president had "extended an invitation to me and Laura and our family to come to the Olympics" during their summit meeting.

"And of course, I was anxious to accept," Bush said. "So thank you, Mr. President."

At a news conference on Feb. 28, Bush was asked what message he's sending by attending the Olympics amid public outcry about human rights abuses. Bush again was not specific about his role at the Olympics, stressing though that he is going as a sports aficinado.

"I'm going to the Olympics because it's a sporting event, and I'm looking forward to seeing the athletic competition," Bush said. "But that will not preclude me from meeting with the Chinese President, expressing my deep concerns about a variety of issues - just like I do every time I meet with the President."

Bush added, "I'm a sports fan. I'm looking forward to the competition. And each Olympic society will make its own decision as to how to deal with the athletes.

Asked whether President Bush should skip the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games in Beijing, Arizona Sen. John Kyl, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate said, “I am not going to give him advice on that but I tell you this: I would personally entertain the notion of not going.”

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell was less forthcoming. He told reporters that he is “sure the president will do what he thinks is appropriate in that circumstance, and I don’t have any advice to offer him publicly.”

Kyl said the matter was not discussed at a meeting today of all Senate Republicans and there are no plans to give the president a formal recommendation on the issue.


Filed under: President Bush
soundoff (216 Responses)
  1. Johnny

    If he does not attend the opening ceremonies that is fine... he makes a statement. I do not think we should boycott the olympics as a country... there is no need to punish people who have worked so hard to get there because of political leveraging they have no control over.

    April 8, 2008 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  2. Sonia CA

    "Anxious to accept the invitation"? we don't see you anxious to help us Bush? think about how much is that trip going to cost the American people! while we are here working hard to buy gas, food, to pay our bills.....you are going to be in China attending the ceremony!! DON'T THINK SO.........THAT IS REASON # 5,000 why your ratings are so low Mr. President!!!!!!!!

    April 8, 2008 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  3. Key West Sun

    He had no choice, Hillary told him to, dang she is slowly taking power already.

    April 8, 2008 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  4. strong

    Good.

    Does it really matter??

    Who wants to see more of Dubya? Enough.

    April 8, 2008 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  5. John

    Why start listening to public opinion now? The decider...blinks.

    April 8, 2008 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  6. CaptainCanada

    Did all these politicians just suddenly realize now that China is dictatorial nation that stomps on human rights? They have had years to respond and they have not – for the simple reason that a large number of western corporations are making millions if not billions in profits taking advantage of low labour rates, atrocious working conditions and non-existent human rights in China. But instead of fining or taxing away the profits of these pirate corporations which have laid off thousands of workers in North America and which have contributed the major part to the trade deficit Western countries experience trading with China, all they can come up with is to avoid going to the opening ceremonies. Soon we will hear calls for an Olympic boycott, guaranteeing that the only victims of the West's sudden concern over human rights in China will be those athletes who have trained for years to be in the Olympics. However, you will never hear these same people calling for an economic boycott of China. Athletes do not bankroll politicians' election campaigns nor do they pay prodigious sums to ex-politicians and presidents to represent them overseas. Once again, when politicians want to make a moral point, they do so in a manner which will cause the least amount of cost to them or their rich corporate friends.

    April 8, 2008 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  7. Jim

    Dear Mr. President,
    Please show some backbone and boycott the opening ceremonies. Tell China that their history of human rights violations is the reason behind your boycott. Tell them that when a Chinese military officer is beating a peaceful Buddhist monk TO DEATH in the streets of Tibet, America is no friend to China. If you "hold these truths to be self evident," then remind China that there are in fact "certain unalienable Rights." (That's from our Bill of Rights, Mr. President... a documents that you've probably never read before).
    Jim, Minneapolis

    April 8, 2008 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  8. Edward

    Who giva a damm....he skips or not ?

    April 8, 2008 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  9. Nancy, TX

    He should, but when has he ever done the right thing. I'll hold my breath.

    Obama 08

    April 8, 2008 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  10. J, Kittery ME

    He's an athletic supporter. That's nice.

    April 8, 2008 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  11. Tammy Jerinski

    I think it's not good to boycott the olympic opening day. Olympics should be and is, an event that brings people of all races, religions, regions and color together. I agree that the United States must express some kind of message to China on it's human rights violations in Tibet. However, if every American is honest with ourselves, what did we do in Iraq ? didn't we do the same thing that China is doing or maybe even worse than that ? we invaded a country that never attacked us and now we are paying the price for it both in terms of death and money. Humans are enemies to their own kind. I dont know where the world is going, it's time that people think about it. God Bless the world

    April 8, 2008 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  12. Ed

    Mr. Bush, Do not cave in to Nancy Polosi. She is baiting for political gain.

    April 8, 2008 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  13. Carrie Higby

    Regarding Perinos' quote; ""But the President has been clear that this is a sporting event for the athletes and that pressuring China before, during and after the Olympics is the best way for us to try to help people across the board in China, not just Tibetans." All I have to say is ; What pressure?
    Once again our President has fallen short of being "presidential and of being the "Commander in Chief " of the greatest free democratic country in the world. Instead of making a hard decision that would represent the values of America and our core beliefs in Liberty and Justice for All.....Once again, when America truly needs a REAL PRESIDENT, our "Commander in Chief" is trying to sidestep our countries bedrock values and refuses to take a stand on behalf of all Americans and of the Free world. Now THAT is UNAMERICAN!

    April 8, 2008 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  14. Holly Croker

    The Olympics are about the athletes, not politics. Be careful when to and when not to cross the line.
    I agree with Jim in Minneapolis, but also side with the athletes.

    April 8, 2008 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  15. Me

    I recently bought a published copy of the Bill of Rights …. It was made in China.

    April 8, 2008 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  16. The Corp

    Boycott the whole thing. I feel bad for the athletes, but lets face it, the Olympics are not what they use to be. And for certain, the chinese should not be allowed to profit given their human rights record.

    April 8, 2008 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  17. ObamaMama

    Is bush now taking orders from Hillary Clinton? As much money as the US owes China he had better show up.

    April 8, 2008 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  18. REDACTED

    Michelle Obama-

    Traitorous comment:
    "For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country because it feels
    like hope is finally making a comeback,"

    April 8, 2008 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  19. Anonymous

    "a Chinese military officer is beating a peaceful Buddhist monk TO DEATH in the streets of Tibet", Jim, have your eyes or your mind checked.

    April 8, 2008 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  20. Joseph

    I hope the U.S can boycott these Olympics and stop their double standard policies. Bush and his Republicans are for democracy and free speech only when it benefits them. They only speak out and invade to spread peace and democracy when a dollar can be made from the country and people. It is time to show that you are truly for democracy and the well being of citizens of oppressive regimes and stand up for the rights of people.

    April 8, 2008 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  21. David Zodda

    Time to end the 'double standard' dictated by this administration. Bush refuses to talk to Cuba citing it's communist ties, religious intolerance, and human rights abuses. That same standard could easily be applied to China.

    April 8, 2008 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  22. deb

    I agree that the opening ceremonies should be boycotted by Bush but isn't it just a little hypocritical. How can he explain doing that when he supports the atrocities going on at Guantanamo.

    April 8, 2008 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  23. Darth Vadik, CA

    A war criminal boycotting another countries attrocities, I really don't care.

    I hope goes there, finds a nice job in the Chinese government, brings Cheney over and never comes back.

    April 8, 2008 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  24. bdc

    "Bush added, "I'm a sports fan. I'm looking forward to the competition. And each Olympic society will make its own decision as to how to deal with the athletes."

    That's your reason. Great. Forget you represent the country, or make an objective decision based on politics or economics, whatever LEGITIMATE reason you might choose. Instead, "I wanna go I think it'll be a great time." Do your job for like ONE day, please.

    April 8, 2008 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  25. Jade, NV

    China is like a spoiled child that gets everything they want from us, and the rest of the world.

    Yes, sure you can have the Olympics and the world's attention and MONEY. But there's just this pesky issue of human rights violations. You don't care, and want to violate human rights anyway? Oh sure, go ahead–anything you say, China.

    They are laughing at us and the rest of the world, and we should say NO once and for all. They should never have been allowed to have the Olympics. It should have taken place in a country as far away from China as possible.

    Yes, George, show some backbone and stay away. It's not as if anyone wants to be reminded of your failed presidency anyway.

    April 8, 2008 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
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