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. Guy


    April 8, 2008 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  2. CB in Florida

    You can best believe that Bush has already gotten the O.K. from the Chinese government to miss the Olympics’ opening ceremony. Don't be fooled that he is doing this to get Pelosi and others off his back. Come on now, we are talking about "W" aren't we? Bush knows who is buttering the proverbial bread here.

    April 8, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  3. Penn State

    This may not get posted because CNN does not want you to know about this, but there is a march on media bias and the suppression of voters on April 11th in New York. Its suppose to be huge!!!

    April 8, 2008 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  4. tony t

    Maybe the US should abstain from participating ,maybe China should bar countries that have joined in the unauthorized invasion of Iraq that have so far cost hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths.what do you all think? Or we can just let the olympic games continue as is. NO POLITICS.

    April 8, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  5. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    Obama is correct in terms of being torn about this. It is the Olympics and a way for the world to come together is peaceful competion. I have to say that I feel it is more important to make the statement about China's question human rights record in China and their relations with other countries (Tibet, Sudan and other locations). China seems to think itself a great country. Well, this might give it pause since it would have missing world leaders. How do you explain that world leaders are refusing to come to pay you respect?

    April 8, 2008 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  6. Denise

    I am personally very sick of Bush's latest PR campaign to try and make things better for McCain. The war sucks, and so does his political propaganda campaign! It's unfair campaigning for the republicans.

    April 8, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  7. deb

    MD – Are you kidding? Since when does Bush listen to anything the people of this country say or think!??? Remember, he's "the decider". He can't leave office soon enough for me. I've had it with his ego and stupidity.

    April 8, 2008 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  8. True Independent, MD

    Please let him go to China. Then we close our boarders and keep him out – PERMANENTLY!

    April 8, 2008 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  9. I love sports, but politics in 2008

    Have you ever been to Tibet or talked to anyone from Tibet or China? Do you really care the people living in China? Think about your news sources –Don't just believe the "news" from Tibet seperatists and CNN ...

    Human right, religion freedom? Yes, these are the perfect excuses for you to deprive anything that may be good to the 1.3 billion CHINESE PEOPLE.

    US to boycott the Beijing Olympic??? I think it will a dream come true for many althletes around the world. When they are celebrating in BJ, unforturnately, most of your althletes will just cry and regret for their entire lives. It is your choice.

    Let's work together and have a wonderful game in Beijing.

    April 8, 2008 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  10. mep

    Yes, he'll skip the opening ceremonies...Only if the Chinese permit it , since they now own him and this country.

    April 8, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  11. Ian

    If Bush doesn't go to the opening ceremony, does that mean waterboarding is officially not torture?

    April 8, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  12. john Su

    do you know China is the best country is the world ?
    People get more freedom than anywhere in the world. no credit check, no tax for most people for life. and supply all the world all kind merchandises!

    April 8, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  13. John

    He wont skip the opening ceremonies. Bush loves China, th eloved them more than his own people. Where else can they get cheap labor for their republican business owners??

    April 8, 2008 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  14. Brett

    I hope he does boycott it. It redeem him a little in my mind.

    April 8, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  15. Kitty

    No words can describe my sadness when I learn that the olympic torch is suffering from protesting and can't even make its peaceful way throughout the world and go back to Beijing. The great olympics have been such a saint symbol of friendship and hope. It belongs to the whole world, belongs to people who speak different languages. It's been such a great event to get people from all over the world together, and they have no problem communicating with each other because they share the same believes in olympics. I still remember how each single one around me teared up at midnight when Beijing lost to Sydney for 2000 Olymics while I was a 17 year old girl in high school. I also can't forget that the whole China teared up again when Beijing finally got the opportunity to host 2008 olympics! As a country with 5000 years of history and 56 different ethnic groups, we are ready to open to the whole world, inviting all of you to come and experience our culture and our life. Isn't that a great chance for the west and east world to communicate better? Since I came to the US, I've met so many nice people who show lots of interest in our mysterious history and very different culture and sometime philosophy which amazingly agree with common values here. I always tell them, well, you are invited to the 2008 olympics. Nothing teachs you more than what you see with your eyes.
    Now, some people are trying to tell me, we shouldn't have the chance. If you do understand the idea of olympics, could you please slow down and think twice, then tell me whether 1.5 billion Chinese people should get a chance to welcome everyone from all over the world to know them better.

    April 8, 2008 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  16. ozonefrance

    The Olympic game is just a sport event, not a political summit !! Nothing import if US president is absent, is he an athlete?

    April 8, 2008 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  17. "Democratic Media" blinded my eyes

    For the first time in my adult life, I am really disappointed by the bias reports from the mdia in a so-called "democratic" country.

    Fellow American, please don't easily believe what you've heard, the media is not telling the truth. If you really wanna know what happens to China, what happens to Tibet, please to go China, go to Tibet!

    It's not "a Chinese military officer is beating a peaceful Buddhist monk TO DEATH in the streets of Tibet", but a criminal Tibean is beating an unarmed Chinses military officer TO DEATH!

    April 8, 2008 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  18. skylark

    Don't Boycott the Olympics!
    Boycott any product made in China. Check the label.
    Pay the extra 1.00 for the product.
    That is what I am doing.
    If enough of us do it the point will be made.
    Start today.
    The Olympics is the only time all countries are in one place without conflict. Maybe someday....?

    April 8, 2008 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  19. Proud American-R

    I read the comments and I must say you democraps are the laughing stock of America. You all think you have the answers to everything but you really know nothing. And you prove that you know nothing because all you want is more Government. Democraps have to have somone take care of them because they are too &*?*#*@*&*% lazy to get a real job and take care of themselves. Let me help out a democrap; Start by asking yourself "What can I do for my Country?" not "what can my country do for me?"

    April 8, 2008 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |

    Bush should boycott (OBAMA SUX) the olympics. I think it would (OBAMA SUX) make a difference.

    April 8, 2008 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  21. ABG

    I will be happy if President Bush would do at least one thing before he leaves to show we are not bought and sold to China.

    Please, Mr. President, boycott the Olympic opening ceremonies.

    April 8, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  22. Rob, Potomac, MD

    the Olympics is not about politics, its about sport and competition, its about the athletes.

    April 8, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  23. Mike

    Probably because he can't find it on the map.

    April 8, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  24. barry

    we need to send a message to china. i should know... i just lost my job to a chinese....

    April 8, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  25. Darth is dumb

    Yet another ill informed idiot that calls Bush a war criminal. While Clinton was still president in 1998, the world voted to make Saddam's violations illegal under international law. His failure to comply all along is what makes this war legal, it's just that nothing was ever done about it. Read about it, then shut up already.

    April 8, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
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