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

Bush may skip opening ceremonies of Olympics

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/04/08/art.busholympics.ap.jpg caption="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. nick

    Don't mess with China. Better to mess with Texas. They don't care what you think and they know that Bush won't do anything. How sad a grown man saying that if he doesn't get what he wants he is not coming to the party. Stay home George and play with your toys.

    April 8, 2008 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  2. ron

    lift the ban on the third term!

    bush/cheney '08!

    April 8, 2008 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  3. John Smith

    As a Catholic, I will continue to say the Rosary for all those who vote for Hillary. Great nations and emires (with all their wealth) fell because of "lack of moral integrity, deceit, greed, moral corruption and so on."

    I do not hate the Clintons. But what the Clintons did to this nation will require a change in generations to wipe out the SINS of this nation. The Clintons have too much blood in their hands. I am over 50years now and a successful professional; I lived through the Clinton years with shame and humiliation. "Give to Ceaser what is Ceaser's and to God what is God's."

    April 8, 2008 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  4. ObamaIsLiar

    If you lookback in history, you will find that it is USA who invaded China and killed thousands Chinese people and tried to rob everything in China.
    It is just a joke that the people in USA now accuse China for human rights. Maybe for them, Chinese people do not have human rights at all.

    April 8, 2008 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  5. Politically INCORRECT?

    Stop hating on President Bush! Stop hating on President Clinton!
    I love them both equally!

    I see the "He Man Woman Haters Club" is in full force as usual, but that's okay, Go HILLARY!

    April 8, 2008 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  6. MG

    We're victims of our own news media distortion. There's so much talk of atrocities and/or brutal handling of the protests in Tibet on the news, but who's been there to see anything firsthand? What concrete evidences were the media able to get? Other than a handful of distorted images (such as cut-off edges, read for yourselves, don't just stick to Western source, try some democratic Asian sources if you will) to intend to veer things in a twisted view, they have not been able to get any evidence. And let's not forget it's the protesters who turned violent first and wreaked havoc on the city.

    If you've been to China, it is actually a pretty peaceful and fun country, though with many internal problems, but overall the majority of its citizens are very loving and love the country. So please don't put on the double standard and calilng China the bad guy in every situation when we ourselves are subject to several invasions. Moreover, don't make the mistake of politicizing the Olympics, the Olympics is all about the celebration of sports, friendship, and to proudly display of the culture of the host nation/city, which is why it is moved to a different host each event.

    April 8, 2008 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  7. Ughhhh...

    Stay, go, who cares. You are not relevant.

    I don't like this man, and I don't like paying $3.74 a gallon for gas.

    Is there any way we can take him off security detail, so that money can go back in the federal budget to pay for people who are suffering. Let Bush protect himself, he got us into this mess.

    Oh, I know let him go to China, alone. He'll win the track meet after they run him out of there.

    Obama 08

    April 8, 2008 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  8. So Sick Of Him

    Take Bush to GITMO and let the detainees chase him. He's a madman.

    The Worst President In Modern History. The worst, the worst, the worst.

    April 8, 2008 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  9. Chris in Va.

    Now if we can just get him to skip his last months in office!

    April 8, 2008 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  10. Shellie, VA

    The media is not getting death threats if they say something bad about Obama. This really is the silly season, you guys are crazy. I'm going to pray for all of you.

    God loves you, and I'm working on it.

    April 8, 2008 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  11. Dawn, AL

    Hello, people...soldiers, dying in Afghanistan and Iraq. China will be China, and it is a travesty, but all we can do is protest. Bush should stay, but he's not that bright. So if he goes, we'll get over.

    Right now we have to focus on this election and get someone with a brain in the White House.

    Also, if you are so against China, stop buying their products. That will wake them up.

    April 8, 2008 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  12. someone who is concerned of human rights

    it shouldnt be a "maye" thing but a must. he should send the message to china that they should improve their human treatment of Tibet. it is unfair that these people are been maltreated by china and still china gaind international atention from the olympic.

    April 8, 2008 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  13. maureen eustace

    God I hope he does not attent the opening cermonies of the Opympics games human rights matter, it is important we get that.
    The games are other issue, not politics.

    April 8, 2008 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  14. David-Paul Niner

    Isn't this sort of an empty concession? If you stand against attending the Olympics in a country that refuses to recognize Human Rights but still send athletes over to compete, what point has been made?

    April 8, 2008 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  15. Steven Johnson

    Good day, Im very disturb that we Americans dont use good common sense.Common sense is the fifth C in underwriting for the Real-Estate industries.It should be our (Americans) first choice in logical thinking. Hilliary Clinton is a LIAR simple and plain,and everyday she show that.I was a Hilliary supporter before yet I switched not because of race,I just did some hard looking and listening to the canidates.I walked door to door for over 8 elected officals here in beautiful Las Vegas Nv, of course I was paid but I truely belived in the canidates I canvas for.America please stop feeling obligated to support anyone canidate on the bases of anything beside whos the best .Dont you belive TRUST is still important .............Thank you from a ununited uneducated Proud American

    April 8, 2008 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  16. Jack

    Thanks to pressure from Hillary............she can take on anybody and achieve anything!!

    I heart Hillary!

    April 8, 2008 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
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