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. Alfredo

    TOO MUCH OF THIS...

    THE TOP STORY SHOULD BE THAT HILLARY HAS MORE ELECTORAL COLLEGE VOTES TO DATE AND THE SUPERDELEGATE VOTES SHOULD BE CASTED TO HER.

    HAVING MORE ELECTORAL COLLEGE VOTES MEAN SHE IS MORE ELECTABLE THAN OBAMA IN NOVEMBER.

    April 8, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  2. X

    Sure GW.....you authorize a war that kills and severly injures thousands....and you have the arrogance to boycott China??

    Unbelievable......

    April 8, 2008 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  3. Craig from Rockford. Illinois

    So when did W get interested in human rights? Must have been in between listening to our phone calls. Too bad he's not as concerned about voting rights – we wouldn't even have had to ask this question!

    April 8, 2008 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  4. Bryan

    July 13th 2001. That’s the date that the World should have been concerned about Beijing hosting the Olympics. We have had 7 years to protest the games and finally now, 6 months before the games are set to open, we decide to take action. Politics do not belong in sport. Scaling bridges and extinguishing a flame won’t solve anything. These athletes who have been competing for this moment their whole life for this moment do not deserve to banished from participating in their given talent. Perhaps the USOC should consider a way to integrate a pin or patch into the official Olympic uniform of the US Olympic Team. This way, those athletes who feel it is appropriate can show their support for Tibet without being forced to.

    April 8, 2008 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  5. Jedi Academy

    Bush needs to go, why is it even being "weighed?" He needs to represent the good will of the People of the United States and attend the opening ceremonies. It would scar diplomatically our relationship with the Chinese if he does not go.

    April 8, 2008 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  6. John Henrickson

    that will show em!!!!!!!!!! then they will free Tibet the next day. why are ALL politicians such IDIOTS? why would the Chinese even care? I know I wouldn't even feel snubbed I would just sell his tickets and be glad about it, maybe see if I could talk that putz into boycotting the whole thing.

    April 8, 2008 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  7. Nicholas Hussein

    When's the last time China started an illegal war with a "pre-emptive" attack, based on fabricated "intelligence"?

    President Guantanamo has NO room to point fingers here...

    April 8, 2008 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  8. Anthoy Boudain

    boy that will show em! how about doing something that will actually affect them like tariffs. It is impossible to find any item in the USA without it saying made in china and to all the americans that talk big but do nothing about it, how about boycotting products made in china? how about increasing the worth of the dollar with American Made Products. We need a Made in America campaign. All of our politicians have sold us out.
    Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh DC needs an ENIMA now!

    April 8, 2008 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  9. Andy from toronto

    Torch torch relay have arrived with chaos into North America leave London and Paris in shame.

    From now on when we try to talk to Chinese about human right they can tell us in Paris human right activist helped a pro Tibet protester hit a blind wheelchair young girl who is carrying the Olympic torch that symbols freedom and unity.

    From now on when we try to talk to Chinese about Media censorship they can tell us about how CNN and BBC don’t report any news about Chinese government caught Tibet monk that hidden explosive and try to become suicide bomber.

    From now on when we try to talk to Chinese about Democracy they can tell us that we all the chaos, backstabbing, flaming and everything for vote attitude that Clinton and Obama is showing.

    Great job Media

    The Country and the world have enough problem as it is can we all quiet down for a second instead of stir up more trouble?

    April 8, 2008 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  10. CHERYL

    I AGREE WITH HILLARY!

    HE SHOULDN'T GO AND SEND A MESSAGE THAT WHAT THEY ARE DOING IS WRONG!!!!
    HILLARY HAS SPENT ENOUGH YEARS IN THE WHITE HOUSE TO KNOW WHAT TO DO IN THESE SITUATIONS!

    SHE IS MORE KNOWLEDGEABLE THAN ANYONE ELSE RUNNING!!!

    THAT IS WHY SHE LEADS IN THE POLLS!!

    WHETHER YOU LIKE HER OR NOT! SHE IS THE BEST CANDIDATE TO WIN BASED ON EXPERIENCE AND WILLINGNESS TO SOLVE THE PROBLEMS AT HAND!!!

    SENATOR CLINTON HAS MY VOTE!!!!!!

    April 8, 2008 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  11. Herman LA, CA

    I wish Bush would skip the next 8 month of his presidency.

    Obama 08!!!

    April 8, 2008 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  12. Michael Ray Thompson

    Wow, I'm a strong Republican. However, I strongly disagree with the White House in regard to its coziness with China. China has the worst human rights record of any other country in the world. We were so quick to condemn South Africa. Why aren't we prepared to even criticize China?

    April 8, 2008 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  13. Ralph V., AZ

    Please go to China! And stay there!

    April 8, 2008 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  14. H. Moyer

    I wonder if Romney had anything to do with China getting the games in 2008. Does anybody know?

    April 8, 2008 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  15. H. Moyer

    Ito from Japan hit the nail on the head.

    April 8, 2008 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  16. GOPHater

    Hey, McCain is the guy who sang "Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb bomb Iran, bomb bomb, bomb, bomb bomb Iran...." to the tune of the Beach Boy's hit Barbara Ann, right? Yea, I'd say he is not only a war monger but also about as mature as Bush. We don't need another 8 years of an immature idiot in the White House.

    April 8, 2008 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  17. "W" Movie of Pres.Bush Life

    I would go see the movie "W" just because I have not had a good laugh for a while. Bush is the poster child for and old comedy stint called Laugh in! But what he has done in true life is not a bit funny!
    Everything he touches turns to salt!

    April 8, 2008 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  18. GOPHater

    Hey Bush, while you're there in China, how about stepping in front of one of those tanks in Tiananmen Square! Maybe this time they won't stop.

    April 8, 2008 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  19. Mary May King

    Skipping is an Olympic event? I knew he liked golf since it has so many lies. Chinese checkers wouldn't be good for him; he's lost his marbles. He doesn't dare play monopoly with them; they have all the money. Own most of the good properties, too. Still, he carries around that "get out of jail free" card. I understand he's really into the high jump, but he needs Dick around to tell him how high. Same for the long jump. He tried the pole vault but couldn't find the combination (kept it with proof of wmds in Iraq.) He and Dick may try doubles in tennis, but I doubt that Bush trusts Cheney with a projectile behind his back. I'm worried about his not making it back home from China; they built a wall and you know how much he believes in them.

    April 8, 2008 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  20. Cl

    The olympics should have never been awarded to China.
    Bush should not attend the opening ceremonies.
    This is not the first time the Olympics have been boycotted and it has been boycotted by athelets, and it won't be the last time.
    Quite a few government officials from other countries are not attending the opening or closing ceremonies.
    I agree Bush should not attend either.

    Hillary for President

    April 8, 2008 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  21. Ratgurl

    Does anybody really care what Bush does anymore? He should just go on permanent vacation.

    April 8, 2008 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  22. Interesting

    I wonder if Bush and Cheney are in a lover's spat and the VP told him to just go ahead and do whatever he wants to do.

    April 8, 2008 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  23. Enough Already

    Get over yourself, John McCain. You just wants to get in the news.

    Barack said you are not a warmonger. If you keep harping on it, then you must realize you ARE a warmonger–which is what I think.

    McCain is not relevant and he will never be relevant. Go focus on more wars, John. Leave Barack alone.

    Obama 08

    April 8, 2008 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  24. Lisa

    We should not boycott the Olympics. After all, we have ignored all of the Chinese behavior and awarded them computers (technology), a US Port of entry and made them US food & drug suppliers. Someone voted to allow the Olympics to be held there. How can we be 2-faced on a 'game' now and hold onto the little integrity we have left?

    April 8, 2008 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  25. ObamaIsLiar

    Look at what US have done in Iraq!
    Do you really think that you have the right to talk about human rights?
    Just a joke!

    April 8, 2008 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
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