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. Diego Hernandez

    to who ever is saying
    "who give a dam!" or "no one cares" tell that to the tibetens.
    i am sure they dont care about being shot down and having the freedom to be .. well Free.

    April 8, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  2. BInn

    To be Honest, America also has a very long history of human rights violations, and such history is still going on! Where were human rights to Indians at 200 years ago? Where were the human rights to Vietnamese when the American attacked Vietnam? Come on, just look at Iraq

    And peaceful Buddhist? What kind of peaceful protests robed the torch from a disabled girl in Paris???

    April 8, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  3. Fav

    Bush, this may be your last chance to redeem yourself!!

    Show some support for the Tibetans (probably the only people who truly mean peace on this planet). Mind you, hmm you're the complete opposite!

    For once in your life don't be such a dildo head and show some patriotism towards your country by NOT supporting China!

    April 8, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  4. Eith

    I don't think Hillary has any clue about real, global politics. Apparently, the Democrats hoping to win in Nov think they can be so public with their anti China campaign and hope that other world out there won't run to China being played against the U.S so publicly.

    April 8, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  5. Dave

    No, please go. Punish the Chinese with your presence

    April 8, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  6. Mike

    People with no power, no influence and no hope often become desperate. The Olympic Torch Relay is a comfortable tradition for many in the world. Thus, it is a PERFECT stage for powerless people to attract over due world attention.

    Shame on the IOC for awarding Red China the 2008 games in the first place! How much money changed hands to bring it about? Boycotting the opening ceremonies, if not the entire games, is the only choice for the free peoples of the world. Greed is the bottom line.

    April 8, 2008 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  7. mb

    I'm all in favor of a general boycott this time, but does anyone actually care whether or not Bush attends? I certainly don't.

    April 8, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  8. June

    No one, no one force American corporations to outsource to China, but everyone is blaming China for it. No one force American people and government to borrow money from China, banks even asked China to save them from the subprime, but everyone is blaming China for that. What logic!! In order to get the balance, Americans and west's are supporting boycott. What a shame!

    April 8, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  9. Gary, Austin TX

    Bush was crying at today's ceremony honoring a fallen hero. Where's the folks who picked on Hillary for doing the same thing during the campaign?

    April 8, 2008 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  10. Olympic Lover

    It makes me sad that people do not realize that there have been political issues in the olympics since 1908 and this is really no different. Yes, China is hosting the Olympics, but there is so much more to it and the IOC really controls what goes on here. PLUS, WHY should the government be allowed to make decisions on what the American Olympic Team does when the government does not fund the USOC and the American Olympic Team? That's bull.

    April 8, 2008 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  11. Rick

    While I am not against a boycott of the Olympics, I also feel that George Bush is the last person in the world that has any moral credibility to do so.. Bush basically thumbed his nose at our allies and the rest of the world during his entire Presidency, starting his own war with no support and against the rest of the world's better judgement. It would be nice if the United States had the moral respect of the world to lead a boycott, but sadly we won't until Bush is out of office. Bush boycotting the olympics? That would be about as ironic as a boycott by Kim Jong Il or Mahmoud Ahmadinegad.

    April 8, 2008 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  12. CY from a non democratic country

    Chudi April 8th, 2008 3:47 pm ET

    Clintonites and Obamanians! MUST READ! Its the republicans that are posting and pretending to be Obamanians/Clinotonites to drive us mad 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 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  13. Taylor

    Doesn't America have enough problems of its own? Olympic is not an political event. Americans do not know enough about Tibet and do not have any legitimate proof about the so called "crack down" on violent riots.

    April 8, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  14. JB

    Absolutely Bush should boycott the Olympics!!

    April 8, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  15. sue

    Great call by both Hillary and Pelosi!

    April 8, 2008 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |

    Peng, Communist China don't let any foreigners in Tibet. Only source of news/pictures are base on Chinese State TV. They let the foreign press with guided tour in designated place with bunch of chinese police in civil dress. Still tibetan monks risk their lives and raise the voice for rights and feelings against Communist Regime. These monks must be died already.

    April 8, 2008 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  17. clara

    i think bush should not attend that away china would know were for freedom for all people and none of the senators should not attend and the games should be boycott

    April 8, 2008 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  18. Trev

    To save face, a faux crisis will come up that will demand his attention here at home. This way he can "boycott" without offending the Chinese and therefore not risk financial ruin for the US Economy.

    It's the only was Out.

    April 8, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  19. Jennfizz

    Wasn't it Nancy Pelosi who initially suggested that President Bush boycott the China Olympics...? Just wanted to be sure in the event someone else takes credit for this as a part of their foreign policy experience – not that I care whether he attends or not either.

    April 8, 2008 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  20. WhosehadEnough

    Wow.......like that's really gonna hurt the Chinese when Bush vetoes a bill that would ban waterboarding!! How about cleaning up our own house!

    April 8, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  21. Al

    Come on, you arrogant Americans, boycott the Beijing Olympics!!! But don't use Human Right as your excuse!!! I doubt most Western people really care about Chinese people's human right at all, nor that of the minority people in Chinese territory – Tibet. You claim Chinese people living in a dark, mid-aged society without their rights and brain washed; I see you are blinded by most biased Western media. Chinese media does not tell all the truth, nor did the Western media. Yours are even worse by manipulating, distorting the truth about what happened in Tibet. If you don't like to see China making progress, if you don't care to learn Chinese history (including Tibet), if you don’t care to know the truth on what really happened in Tibet, if you enjoy pretending you are better informed and knowledgeable about China and "human right", go ahead...blast China and its 1.3 billion Chinese people at any chance. All I can tell you is when you pick side with Tibetan separatists, you are against the Chinese people as a whole. Hatred is easily be plowed and it takes generations to be rooted out. Do you really want to make the 1.3 billion Chinese people your next enemy?

    April 8, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  22. Sharon

    It's good Mr. Bush is taking the lead from HILLARY....:) That just made my day 🙂

    April 8, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  23. EBC

    Gee, President Bush, don't start doing anything RIGHT NOW... it's too late.

    Why start at this point now...it's pointless. I mean do we also have to draw a picture of the moving truck for you to get a clue.

    I guess once you are in the moving truck that "light" may go off.. I said "MAYBE"...HA HA.

    I honestly think that light has been burnt out since his birth. I think President Bush was dropped on his head as a baby and has never recovered.

    April 8, 2008 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  24. Kitty

    For all of those who are criticizing about human right record in China, could you please do me a favor and ask yourself how much real truth you know about the human right issue there? Have you ever tried to talk to any Chinese (from any ethnic group) around you in order to get the really feelings from them about human rights in China? If you do so, how could you ignore that fact that the majority of Chinese are happy and they are not complaining about anything you are complaining about even they are supposed to be suffering in your imagination? How could you ignore how much China have improved in human rights record and many many other aspects in the last 50 years? We know we are not perfect yet, but we are trying very hard to approach the ultimate goal and we've made dramatic progress in a very short time.
    What I don't understand is, no one stood out for the Chinese when multi countries invaded China from the end of last century to world war II. Now suddenly, some people stand out for some accuses they are not even sure of. They like to criticize about it without seriously caring about it (which takes more effort to investigate ). What a shame!

    April 8, 2008 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  25. Nick Mann

    Using the Olympics as a platform for any political statement is wrong and goes against what the Olympics represents. It was wrong for us to boycott in 1980 and it was wrong for the Soviets to boycott in 1984. Plenty of opportunity to play politics, but not with the lives of amateur atheletes that have dedicated their life to this and just want to be part of the celebration.

    April 8, 2008 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
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