April 8th, 2008
03:30 PM ET
14 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. marylee wagerman atlanta,ga

    Oh great! Now Hillary will try and take credit for this.

    April 8, 2008 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  2. clmartin

    Now china will ask us to pay back out loans...

    Good luck Bush!

    April 8, 2008 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  3. Michael, Torrance, CA

    Bush, you flipped off the democrats every other time they tried to tell you what to do. What's different here?

    April 8, 2008 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  4. Skip

    Just as Mr.. Bush has limited US options in Iraq , the President's trip to the Olympics in China is another example. The question is not whether he should boycott the Opening Ceremonies, but whether he can do so without serious consequences for the US economy. The Chinese tyrants are now in position to wreck the the US currency. We are also dependent on them for loans to continue the import binge, including oil from the Middle East. If you think about it he really has no option , but to attend. What a sorry situation!

    April 8, 2008 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  5. AnyoneButHillary

    As well he should!

    April 8, 2008 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  6. dennis

    What really saddens me is that Hillary continues to LIE!(NAFTA) LIE! (ALLEGED BOSNIA SNIPER FIRE) LIE!( IRELAND). Clearly she can't be trusted. Just ask the youth of America who, by the thousands, are convincing their parents to vote for OBAMA.

    And she stooped to a new level for asking America (mostly women) to give her some POINTS because it takes longer for her to dress up and get ready than men. ARE YOU KIDDING ME!

    April 8, 2008 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  7. honkey white guy from cali

    Who cares!!!!!!! really I mean no one was up in arms climbing bridges and holding protests back when the commission made that choice! I would like everyone to think about all those people who have worked a life time for the chance to compete in these games! I don't agree with what China is doing any more than the next man but come on these games should not be used in any political arm twisting it was bad for Hillary to support this idea and now that we know that the village idiot is actually thinking about it we should really be scared Hillary is no democrat she is a republican in democrat rhetoric. once again for all the bad you have done and pain you have caused the world SHAME on you MR Bush!!!

    April 8, 2008 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  8. Christi in Canada

    Not attending is a great move. But pressuring China afterwards is important.

    April 8, 2008 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  9. j williamson

    We Dems love it when Geo. Bush takes Clinton (Bill or Hillary) advice.

    April 8, 2008 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  10. Now we know

    The reason most news agencies won't report anything bad about Obama, even the truth, is because lots of them are getting death threats if they do.

    It's not just that they are against Hillary, they are afraid to say anything else.

    April 8, 2008 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  11. Chudi

    Clintonites and Obamanians! MUST READ! Its the republicans that are posting and pretending to be Obamanians/Clinotonites to drive us against each other.

    YES both Obama and Clinton sides have been battling each other but the most divisive and rude statements come from the republicans! We've been had DEMOCRATS! Check out the links.

    THIS MEANS WAR! Smarten up democrats.

    Please google this "Republicans bloggers posing as democrats on blogs".

    April 8, 2008 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  12. Please don't keep me waiting in moderation.

    OMG Bush is going to do the right thing!

    April 8, 2008 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  13. Tony Z- MD


    The time to complain was before China got the games not now.

    April 8, 2008 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  14. 180degrees

    Are we sure it has nothing to do with the 15 hr flight without cable TV?

    April 8, 2008 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  15. Stacy Clarks,

    Bush is an IDIOT IN EVERY WAY!!!

    First he gets us in a war that we cannot afford

    then he borrows money from China to fund it

    now we are in-debted to china and cannot speak out against their human rights records

    now we look like hypocrits, and the world hates us even more

    great job Bush!! great job!!


    OBAMA 08!!!!!!!!!!!!

    April 8, 2008 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  16. Stephen,Wilmington,NC

    Bush will attend the opening Olympics because he's scared not to. That may upset the Chinese and all the trade deals that he and his cronies have made. You know that money trumps everything in this world.

    April 8, 2008 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  17. Alex H

    It sounds like Bush has a very powerful opportunity to lead a strong moral protest that would include other world leaders awaiting his influence. Here's what bothers me:

    "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 are we doing 'before'? I'm not seeing anyone pressuring them? Why do you need to wait until August to talk to the President of China? What are you doing??? I'm seeing a very immature stance on this issue coming out of the Bush administration. Bush would rather go to the Olympics than tell China they're wrong. Action now does not mean you can't go to the Olympics if it truly is 'just a sporting event'.

    April 8, 2008 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  18. Hicks, Fort Myers

    Why now actually listen to what the libs and French have to say?

    Stay the course. We've already redressed them via White House and the Congress publicly. The next step should be consideration of sanctions–high level discussions–or just do what we've been doing–ignoring the situation.

    April 8, 2008 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  19. TT

    If you go GW Please stay there. Thanks!!!

    April 8, 2008 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  20. Politically INCORRECT?

    I still love you too President Bush, but I feel the media is monopolizing our votes!

    The Grand Illusion
    Welcome to the grand illusion
    Come on in and see whats happening
    Pay the price, get your tickets for the show
    But don't be fooled by the radio
    The TV or the magazines

    So if you think your life is complete confusion
    Because you never win the game
    Just remember that its a grand illusion
    And deep inside we're all the same.
    HOPE AND CHANGE, paid for by G. E.

    another song, the ninety's were the BEST OF TIMES
    with the Clinton's!

    April 8, 2008 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  21. Jasmyne

    Now wouldn't it be funny if China then forced us to pay back the BILLIONS of dollars we owe them

    April 8, 2008 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  22. Me

    I suppose that it would be difficult finding a cable that long.

    April 8, 2008 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  23. Oh, Give me a BREAK!!!

    Darn, I was kind of hoping Bush would go to China. He needs to know where China is. I guess, after thinking about it, he can get Dick Cheney to point it out on a map for him.

    In regard to the message Bush would be sending to the world by going to China for the Olympics, I don't think it really matters at this point. Bush, in 8 years, has managed to drop the US's reputation in the world almost to the levels of his own approval rating. There is very little else he could do to make matters worse. Perhaps suggesting that double parkers be waterboarded might make it a bit worse, but not much.

    April 8, 2008 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  24. Anonymous

    yeah right

    April 8, 2008 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  25. Nelson Colorado Springs Co

    if Prezzz Bush don't go to openning Olympic ceremonies China should ask for payment in full of all America dedt to China. This is about sports the Olympics not politic. Prezz Bush should go

    April 8, 2008 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
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