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. bill

    What a lame President....He talks about supporting the troops, but he wont go support our athletes....Why don't you just have the US Olympic team boycott the Olympics if you are not going to support the team at the opening ceremonies. This President will make our athletes feel like crap.

    But like Vice President Cheney said, who cares what the American people think......

    April 8, 2008 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  2. Will

    If his only reason to go is because he is a sports fan, he needs to re-evaluate his life and current position in the world.

    I guess if slaves were still being tortured and figthing to death in the Collasium in Rome, he'd go too.

    April 8, 2008 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  3. Jason

    It is shamefull, we now can think of nothing regarding the human right, but boycotting the Olympics

    April 8, 2008 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  4. stag

    Okay,Jorge Bush, get this one right...DO NOT GO.

    April 8, 2008 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  5. Peter

    This could very well be the very first time I ever supported the guy.
    Yes, Make a case that is worth making. China is looking at the Olympics as their symbolic rise as a world super power, let us symbolically show them that super powers should not be built with the lost lives of Darfur, liberty of Tibet or the destruction of the environment.

    April 8, 2008 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  6. Ry

    China and the US are nothing alike.

    We never called in the army to run tanks over democracy protesters. This is about much more than Tibet.

    April 8, 2008 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  7. BInn

    Your America also has a very long history of human rights violations, and such history is still going on!! Human rights??Did you give the human rights to Indians at 200 years ago?Did you give the human rights to Vietnamese when you attacked Vietnam?Come on, just look at what have you done to Iraq.....

    And peaceful Buddhist? your peaceful protests robed the torch from a disabled girl in Paris???

    April 8, 2008 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  8. Mike for texas

    He stands for SHAME -DISGRACE !!! ,and I don't think he has guts to question about CHINA's right ?

    He is useless --for any act of civil manner !!!!

    April 8, 2008 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  9. John in NYC

    To Ms. Jerinshi above,

    While the ideals that you attribute to the Olympics are noble, the Olympics has historically ALSO upheld the even greater human value – that is civil rights. For decades South Africa was banned from participating in the Olympics because of its univerasally-condemned policy of Apartheid.

    Its sad that the OIC has forgotten those ideals and awarded the games to one of the worst human rights violators on the planet...simply because they wield a great deal of power.

    April 8, 2008 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  10. Fernandez

    For the first time I agree with Bush, I feel we should not let politics interfere with a sporting event. If it is human rights violations we are concerned about, take a look at our Country first. We should practice what we preach and stop killing each other.

    April 8, 2008 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  11. bob in la

    support the athletes- not the Chinese government- good strategy.
    Kind of how most Americans feel about Iraq- support the troops, not the Presidents actions.

    April 8, 2008 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  12. PA voter

    WOW...he is finally doing the right thing for once...

    I am in shock.

    April 8, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  13. Conan

    Screw these over hyped, corrupt games. Does anyone really care anymore?

    April 8, 2008 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  14. Mike

    Don't penalize the athletes for a once in a lifetime goal. Carter did it, but he's an idiot.

    April 8, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  15. Glen,

    Perhaps the Bush critics should go back and check the press files on his criticism on China. Actually don't bother, why let facts get in the way of good old fashioned prejudice.

    April 8, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  16. Neal A. DeBiasio

    DO NOT demean the Olympic Games by inserting politics into a sporting game that is NOT POLITICAL.

    April 8, 2008 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  17. Mike

    To those who post here, PLEASE try and stay on point!

    Silly, "waste of space" comments simply do nothing but take up space for those who like to comment on the real issues, unlike 180 degrees and J Kittery.

    Stay focused and keep your comments serious, do your understand politics?

    April 8, 2008 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  18. Katherine

    It's nice to see George heeding Hillary's advice. Hillary is the smartest person in the room. Today she rocked the Senate hearing with the Hon. Gen. Petraeus, Hillary clearly proves she is the most intelligent, most qualified, most skilled, most electable candidate in the race.

    Hillary will be a great President. Hillary has already proven she can win big in the big states that are the must wins for the Dems in November. The Obama caucus wins are meaningless. Obama is unelectable and Obama is destroying the Dem party.

    The Democratic Party would be wise to remember that white women for decades have been the majority voting block of the party and WE WANT HILLARY!!


    If not Hillary, McCain. Country first, party second. Patriotism matters. Thank you Hon. Gen. Petraeus for your service, I am against the War in Iraq but I honor your service always as well as all of the brave men and women in uniform who serve this nation. May God Bless you and AMerica, NEVER< God Da– America as Obama's "pastor" & "mentor" Wright likes to shouts. He is disgusting.

    April 8, 2008 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  19. Justin from West Haven, CT

    He should skip the rest of his term.

    April 8, 2008 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  20. Jim, Burlington

    OK, you have to admit the "Athletic Supporter" line is a true gem of a Bushism.

    That aside, the best way to protest Chinas action is to dominate the games and have every athlete on the podium from the US who wins a medal, wave a small Tibetan flag...

    April 8, 2008 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  21. RJK

    Things I used today:

    Pen: Made in China
    Car: Some parts made in China
    Cell phone: Made in China
    Camera: Made in China
    Clothes: Made in China
    Shoes: Made in China
    Computer: Some parts made in China

    Let's get real people, without China we would be paying a lot more for the products we use everyday.

    Other reasons to boycott though: sub par work conditions, the complete lack of environmental standards, poor working conditions, a complete disregard of basic rights that are guaranteed to us as citizens. Oh and that whole Tiananmen Square situation. Boy was that unbelievable!

    April 8, 2008 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  22. Gino

    The ridiculous posturer postures once more. Get all weepy at the posthumous medal of honor ceremony? Sure thing. Boycott the Olympic ceremonies? Comin' right up. How about another tap-dance at the white House porch? Please Boy Bush, go away now!

    April 8, 2008 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  23. veljo

    Yeah, if and when Chinese allow him

    April 8, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  24. John

    I don't agree with the president. The athletes come to the Olympics as representatives of their countries. The flags of their countries will fly and the national anthems will be sung. So the Olympics Games are political.

    April 8, 2008 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  25. George

    Why politicize the Olympics? Does anyone really believe boycotting the opening ceremony is going to make a difference? Why not just go ahead and boycott the whole Games so that Bush will have a chance to edge out Carter as the worst president in history? And for the idiots screaming about NAFTA, where are you going to get the 2 million barrels of oil a day we get from Canada thanks to NAFTA that Canada has said will instead go to China if NAFTA goes away? When you are paying $5 or more for a gallon for gas you will be wishing NAFTA was back

    April 8, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
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