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. cnn rocks

    breaking news,bill clinton supported columbia free trade actually championed it,go to huff posr and politico to get full gist,
    PA voters got played.

    April 8, 2008 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  2. maya

    And a TRUE LEADER- Hillary Clinton- was the FIRST to suggest this.

    April 8, 2008 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  3. Linda of Atlanta

    Who cares if Bush goes to the Opening Ceremonies? The man has never considered or represented the concerns/interests of Americans. Why would he start now? His Legacy is already set!

    April 8, 2008 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  4. Brittany

    He'll possibly boycott the opening ceremony due to China's crackdown on Tibet, but not due to China's support of the Khartoum government? It's great that he's taking a stand on Tibet, but are the refugees of Darfur any less important!?

    April 8, 2008 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  5. Ito, Yokosuka Japan

    Boycotting the opening ceremony is stupid. Big deal. Why isn't America boycotting the entire Olympic games. We shouldn't even be sending any athlete to China, period.

    Boycotting the opening represents all that is essentially problematic with politics. We talk a big talk but our actions don't say a lot about our words. Is integrigity holding the hand of principle as they both walk out the door? Slapping china on the wrist has never worked in the past. Why are we still doing it?

    April 8, 2008 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  6. Jared

    Does anyone else find it ironic that Bush would boycott anything because of human rights violation when he allows the CIA to torture people?

    April 8, 2008 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  7. Ricky, MO

    Have the open ceremony in a jail cell, that way China will allow the world to know what their country is really like.

    I hope there is a protest everyday. I also hope that the American media will not focus on how wonderful China is, because it will make me puke. If they are not talking about athletes or Tibet, turn the channel.

    Every athlete should where a Tibetan symbol of solidarity. Every win should be dedicated to Tibet. I'm serious, this is shameful in this day and age.

    Tibet 08

    April 8, 2008 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  8. Danny

    When Olympics in United States we need other country come to joy us and now Olympics go to China U.S.A want to boycott this is wrong to be a word leader and no human right at all.

    April 8, 2008 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  9. Frank Lee


    He'd only screw something else up if he went over there anyway.

    The world is safer when he's in the confines of the White House.

    April 8, 2008 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  10. Jerry

    I couldn't have said it any better, Jim; however, you forgot, "you putz" after the last word, "before".

    April 8, 2008 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  11. Terry

    Just send Obama to China. He is trying to please everyone and sweet talk everyone, that's all he does, maybe he will talk their ears off and make them give up.

    April 8, 2008 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  12. Melanie, San Francisco

    Hillary just go away. Who is she the Congressional Mom, now? Let him do what he wants to do, he's leaving remember. This is not a man with backbone.

    April 8, 2008 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  13. WILL, Houston, TX

    Bush will ultimately do nothing or exactly the wrong thing. Like he has done for eight years now. Now come on general public don't be a flock of sheep like you have been now for eight years. This guy should have been hung by his toes in the street for many other issues, the situation in China must be addresses. BUT WE MUST CHANGE OUR POLICIES AND STANCES HERE IN THE U.S. before we do anything anywhere else in this madhouse messed up world.


    April 8, 2008 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  14. Peng

    Jim, where did you get the story that chinese beat monks to death in the streets of tibet. I lived in Tibet for servral years watching tibetans live a normal life everyday. US is in such a mess because it's never short of liars like you! Go to tibet/China and check it out for yourself.

    Peng, Atlanta

    April 8, 2008 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  15. Brian

    Do NOT boycott any of the Olympics, opening or otherwise. As a citizen of the Republic of China (Taiwan) living in the US, these games and the adjunct ceremonies are a celebration of Chinese culture and of the progress that has been made in the past century.

    Personally I am sick and tired of the double standards the West has held China to again and again. Must I remind you all of the terrible suffering the West put China through, from the Opium Wars to imperialism thinly shrouded as international trade. Then American media chooses to portray the current unrest as brutal police action, ignoring the fact that it was the protesters who turned violent first against innocent non-Tibetan ethnic groups. But of course. The media is only doing what Americans know how to do best: criticizing other peoples' faults while ignoring their own.

    April 8, 2008 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  16. Samantha

    Mr. Martin, we should pay back our loans to China and we should move our manufacturing back to the United States where it belongs.
    That would help our national security situation and it would help our economy. China deserves to play a powerful role in the world given its great population and economic and military power. But we do not have to continue to buildup China while we deplete our own economic foundations and our position in the world.

    Hillary was right to suggest this move yesterday. Bush would be correct to stay away from the ceremonies. The Nazis used them to demonstrate their great "superiority" - we shouldn't provide such a propaganda vehicle for China. Too bad the Olympics are there. The best thing is for the free people of the world to raise their voices and let China know what they think about their backwards, repressive political system and regime.

    April 8, 2008 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  17. zia

    People who are asking for boycotts, dont be hypocites. Stop buying Chinese goods if you are so dedicated to the HR cause and liberation for Tibet. Boycotting olympics only hurts athalete who have worked hard all their lives for a dream.

    April 8, 2008 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  18. Bob Stephens

    I don't believe that Bush has the guts to stand up to the Chinese.

    April 8, 2008 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  19. Janel, St. Paul, MN

    This is complex, but I can't help but wonder that if President Bush does attend the opening ceremonies, this will show our country's respect for the athletes representing all nations.

    Just a thought.

    April 8, 2008 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  20. Mike

    About time you listened to Hillary.

    April 8, 2008 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  21. BobW

    Clinton has made a stand, Bush seems to be making a stand. This is a lot better than bombing China or letting China gun down the Tibetans. Obama has been wishy washy as always, simply waiting for public opinion to tell him what he should do about China.

    April 8, 2008 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  22. Sarah, MI

    Yeah, the Worst President in Modern History needs to go out with a bang. Go to China, take a photo with the human rights violators, and don't forget to smile.

    Why should you think about your legacy now? It's in the toilet anyway.

    Tick tock....come on November.

    April 8, 2008 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  23. Bill

    Let's keep politics out of the Olympics and all sporting events. There must be better ways to do deal with the terrible situation in Tibet. The Olympics is the only forum where in year's past , enemies have come together to compete in friendship! One should also consider the position of our U.S. athletes who trained hard their whole lives for this one chance, only to have it taken away by a boycott. Perhaps we should let our individual athletes make their own decisions. Did our boycott of the 1980 Moscow games accomplish anything? I think not. Has anyone considered that China has more to gain if the U.S. doesn't show? The opportunities for more chinese athletes to win gold increase dramatically. I doubt they would care if we didn't come to the party.

    April 8, 2008 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  24. Roger, Arkansas

    Good call Hillary! I don't know where Obama was hiding.

    April 8, 2008 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  25. MD

    I know the Chinese own the American government, thanks to Bush's failed economic policies. But come on...You are either for human rights or you are not.

    Grow some spine for god's sake and announce to the world that we, in this country, do not condone what the Chinese are doing in Tibet.

    The decision to go or not to go is not entirely Bush's. He represents the people of this country and must reflect the will and opinion of the majority, especially in issues like this.

    If Bush attends the opening ceremonies, McCain might feel the backlash in the general election.

    April 8, 2008 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
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