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. Willy

    I hope President Bush does not pull a democrat and skip the opening ceremonies.

    April 8, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  2. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    This idiot has no choice but to attend the olympics, he's borrowed billions of dollars from China for war. You'll see your share when IRS mails out your stimulous check which also was funded by China.

    April 8, 2008 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  3. David, Santa Maria, CA

    Its a difficult situation as we should always support our athletes who have dedicated years of their lives for this moment. However, there is the fact that China should have never gotten the Olympics due to their abuses of human rights that go way beyond Tibet. China has been abusing and persecuting Christians for many years as well as other groups. This Tibet thing is not new. The blame should be on the Olympic Committee that awarded the games to Beijing. I cant help but remember the 1936 Olympics in Berlin that provided Hitler a showcase for Naziism.

    It is clear that the Communist government intended to use the Olympics to showcase their society. Its evidenced by the amount of abuse poured on their citizens to to prepare a stellar impression to the world. From denying water to farmers, to taking peoples homes to build the Olympic village, to depleting world resources to horde materials for their show, therre has been a systematic deprivation of the Chinese people so their leaders can show off.

    The Olympics are not providing an example of what is good in humanity this year.

    April 8, 2008 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  4. BHO

    If Tibet is a problem for Americans, they must leave to Europe immideately after hand over America to the NATIVE PEOPLE (Shamelessly you guys call them INDIANS). If you still think that you can occupy the land, then better shutup on CHINA!

    Furhter nothing will happen to the Chinese Olympics when a MURDERER like Bush quits!

    April 8, 2008 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  5. kent

    Don't go George. Send Hilary!

    April 8, 2008 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |

    Pelosi said it FIRST and all you Clintonians called her NAMES and now you want to claim it for HILLARY? HYPOCRITES and LIARS YOU ALL ARE LIKE YOUR CLINTON. So all you CLINTONIANS are just irresponsible.

    April 8, 2008 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  7. Rafael Richmond Virginia

    Wow Bush is coming back to his sences! Why politicize the Olympics? Well because China has given the world an opportunitty to tell the world what they do to humas. Just imagine being born there Ah? You would want the world to know how you are opresed and violated everyday of your life. Everyone should speak out but, let the games continue I agree but, we must speak out for sure!

    April 8, 2008 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  8. Jane

    Of course, Hellary will try to take credit for this. This was suggested to President Bush by Nancy Pelosi last week. I'm quite sure he has been considering this since he spoke with Nancy.

    April 8, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  9. Deb

    The decision to attend the Opening Ceremonies is a complex and not easily-determined one. I can see why many hope that Pres. Bush does not attend because of the Chinese record on human rights in addition to the burtal subjugation of Tibet. There is more than enough ChiCom oppression in the past decade to warrant staying home. I was appalled that the IOC gave the Games to China in the first place. What next...Iran? Cuba? Syria?
    It's mildly amusing that Hillary has "found Jesus" since the Clinton Administration (a) secured illegal Chinese donations for their political war chests, and (b) supported and encouraged Congress to award permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) to China back in the 90s. A lot of Republicans protested the Chinese record on human rights in voting no to Bill's request for PNTR and they were criticized for being right-wing paranoids.

    April 8, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  10. Oregon Independent

    All of you China haters, why do you keep buying all the Chinese made products that stack up in all the stores in America? If you really want to do something about the repression of freedoms then put a little action where your mouths are and do something about it. Probably not...you need to get your "materialism fix" of the latest toy for your hedonistic gratification. !

    April 8, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  11. Steve, California

    There is a lot of similarity between Carter and Bush. But I think Bush will edge out Carter for being the worst president in U.S. history.

    It is for different reasons, but in the end neither one respects Americans nor represents their interests.

    April 8, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  12. mdg

    So, Hillary tells George Bush he shouldn't go while Bill told Steven Spielberg he SHOULD go.

    Penn and Bill tell Colombia we like that trade agreement while Hillary tells us she doesn't support that trade agreement.

    There's a revolving door in her campaign staff; unpaid bills going back to January, etc. etc.

    Take a good look folks – this is what we'd get with a 3rd term for The Clintons!

    April 8, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  13. Tejano

    Good move. The olympics is for the atheletes not to make propaganda with it. China is at least for today a friend and let's keep it that way. I have seen thier military arsenal and i would rather have them as a friend.

    April 8, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  14. bP


    April 8, 2008 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |

    No, no one in their right mind wants NAFTA. Amazing if G. Bush finally does the right thing, but how can we believe he really cares about human rights? Torture, domestic surveillance, unparalleled arrogance... the conservative party in America has amply demonstrated rampant apathy to the poor. Why should we swallow their NAFTA betrayal of American labor or their posturing and fear-mongering?
    Boycotting the games is the only thing Bush can do to regain the trust of American workers which he lost by his heavy-handed policies. Unfortunately, it's too little too late. The Republicans have lost credibility with blue-collar America, and seem to be striving for a complete loss with everyone.
    America doesn't need 2 mil barrels of oil for more SUVs. We need less greedy citizens. Who are we to be threatened by Canada, or OPEC, or anybody?
    Why politicize the Olympics? Fools, otherwise nothing will ever be done! Let's keep all the wrong in the world just the way it is. That's why they call you blokes conservatives. Always static. Never moving, never progressing. You shame yourselves.

    April 8, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  16. Open Minded

    I guess the Prez can make up his own mind on whether to go or not...it was BILL CLINTON who pushed thru trade with China. It IS Bill Clinton who sold his soul to the Chinese and continues to do so. In that case HILLARY'S opinion on China counts for squat.

    China has always had inhumane treatment of their people and very much restricts free speech...so folks this isn't new news on Tibet.

    April 8, 2008 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  17. James West

    Again, Barack has no position. That should show you what kind of white house it will be. Sit and wait till whatever happens happens. Might just have to be a republican if Hillary gets screwed by you treasonists.

    April 8, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  18. tom, Boston

    democrats and republicans both are towing the neocon agenda: oil & water in middle east + china / india's geopolitical proximity to the strategic resources + israel as frontline for neocon interests vs. iran backed by china and russia ...

    like many said, there is not a dime of difference between the GOP and the dems when it comes to our foreign policies.

    April 8, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  19. franny

    It's about time he starts acting like he has a heart.

    April 8, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  20. Its True

    Sure, boycott the Olympics, big deal.

    Guess what? We have a relationship with China economically. We do tons of business with them. Its not all take out people. For every bad thing you think China has done, there also plenty of good things too. Although I do agree they have some sketchy practices when it comes to humanitarian issues, you can't punish its citizens for it.

    April 8, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  21. BlueDragon

    Just wondering how many of the people protested and ranted against Chinese goverment really know and understand the Tibet and China. Have you visited China recently? Have you ever visited Tibet? Do you know where exactly Tibet is? Please understand that the majority of Tibetan people don't want to go back the old slave system.

    No goverment is perfect. Today's Chinese government has been doing much better than before in almost every areas including human rights. Boycotting Olympics will only make the human rights situation worse. Look at what happened in China after the Lhasa unrest on 3/14, almost all the Chinese community overseas, even people who don't like Chinese government before, and the whole China is united against separatists. Boycotting Olympics is boycotting Chinese people, not the governemnt. Please don't sabotage and spoil the Olympics. Get the truth from TalkChina.org.

    April 8, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  22. Franky

    Do what you gotta do Mr. President.....do what you gotta do.

    April 8, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  23. David, Silver Spring, MD

    This is a sporting event, not a political event. That's why B. is paying for the trip with his own money and is using accrued annual leave to cover his time out of the office.

    April 8, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  24. AA

    Well, let us hope otherwise. Nothing could be more damaging to our relations with China in a time we can't afford. There is a world out there wanting to see us going at it with the Chinese so publicly.

    April 8, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  25. Eric

    Bush should boycott the Beijing's bloody olympics... to show the world that he is a proponent of the human rights.. against the Beijing's bloody crackdown on the peaceful demonstrators in Lhasa. I am sure that will be the right move for him and he will be remembered in the history in making that right choice.

    Free Tibet now.

    April 8, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
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