Napolitano: Obama’s non-visit to Sochi is not a snub to Putin
February 9th, 2014
10:31 AM ET
8 years ago

Napolitano: Obama’s non-visit to Sochi is not a snub to Putin

(CNN) – For the past 14 years, U.S. delegations to the Olympics have included a president, vice president or member of the president's family - but President Barack Obama's decision not to travel to Russia was not a snub to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Janet Napolitano said in an interview with CNN's "State of the Union."

"I think the President chose delegations that represent leaders from various walks of life, former Olympians, leaders in government service," said Napolitano, who's leading the U.S. delegation in the current Winter Olympic Games and served as secretary of Homeland Security from 2009 to 2013.

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Obama and Putin have had what’s been described as a chilly relationship in recent years over a number of political differences. But Napolitano insisted Obama simply wanted to send a "delegation that represents the broad values of the United States."

The president, in an interview Friday with NBC's Bob Costas before the opening ceremony, said he wouldn't necessarily call his relations with Putin "icy."

"He does have a public style where he likes to sit back and look a little bored during the course of joint interviews. I think that’s where some of these perceptions come up," Obama said. "My sense is that’s part of his shtick back home politically, as wanting to look like the tough guy. U.S. politicians have a different style. We tend to smile once in a while."

Napolitano told CNN's chief political correspondent Candy Crowley she has no plans to meet or talk to Putin.

"I am not here as a diplomat," she said.

Napolitano added she hasn't seen any security concerns that give her pause in Sochi, though she acknowledged the risk of having the games there, close to a volatile region in Russia.

"Within the boundaries of Sochi, within the so-called ring of steel, there's a lot of security, but once you have your credential, once you have your IDs and so forth, you can move around and, get into the venues and the Games," she said.

Napolitano also said she hasn't seen any signs that Russia's so-called anti-gay propaganda law has had an effect on the athletes or made them feel unwelcome.

"President Obama has been very clear over time about the United States and our position with respect to human values and human rights and freedom of expression and tolerance and diversity," she said. "These are things we hold dear in the United States. And this is an area where we have some disagreements with Russia."

And if Napolitano were in the Olympics, what would be her sport of choice?

"I jokingly told another reporter curling, because I got into curling when I was at the Games in Vancouver four years ago," she said. "But I have to say, when you see the figure skaters and the beauty of their performances, it does make one jealous."

Watch State of the Union with Candy Crowley Sundays at 9am ET. For the latest from State of the Union click here.

soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. Tampa Tim

    If Obama went to Sochi, the brain dead wingnuts would complain he is wasting tax payer money to travel to see a communist. This way, they can complain that . . . he didn't waste taxpayer money on travel to see a communist?

    February 9, 2014 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  2. libs arethick

    Who WANTS Obama at the Olympics? Seriously?

    Obama has not and will not EVER forgive Putin for his masterful and diplomatic prevention of the war Obama wanted so much in Syria!
    He's like a spoiled brat when he doesn't get what HE wants – never mind his country!

    February 9, 2014 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  3. Thomas

    Send Mitt Romney , he's looking for something to do .

    February 9, 2014 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  4. Steve

    Tolerance and diversity should be the norm in the world, but they are being thwarted by the forces of religion and government.

    February 9, 2014 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  5. DroneAlone

    And of course Obama can't say that himself...

    February 9, 2014 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  6. SomewhereOverTheRainbow

    For something that really was not a snub to Putin sure does look like it was. Obama knew what he was doing when he did not make certain appearances. Not to spend some time with Putin on that visit is and was unacceptable. Diplomacy is expected as a president.

    February 9, 2014 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  7. Thomas

    It's hard to watch the Olympics when you see the suffering in Syria .

    February 9, 2014 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  8. Tampa Tim

    Ever notice how wingnuts are always unhappy, no matter what?

    February 9, 2014 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |

    The games are boring. Who cares?

    February 9, 2014 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  10. NameFrank Deery

    There were security issues at London, which
    got Mitt Romney in trouble, but Michele Obama went anyway, invading every photo op she could-in an election year. She was All over those weird Games like a dirty shirt! . Now, our Winter Team need support in a . . .
    Tough area, but got who? Napolitano, who as Homeland Security honcho blew Boston-and was canned? Benny and the Jetisons!

    At least Biden should have come, but he
    was bust trashing New York Airports.

    Vote Republican in 2014/2016 America, if you want safer streets, events, and Health Care!

    February 9, 2014 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  11. wendel

    I love the Romney comment. Good idea.

    February 9, 2014 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  12. Jodo

    Putin made obama look like a fool with Syria and Snowden. It's no wonder bayrack is embarrassed to go to Sochi

    February 9, 2014 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  13. Silence DoGood

    And of course Obama can't say that himself...
    He actually did say it himself, as well. There are security risks we may not know about, and he is busy fighting domestic Tea-terrorist at home.

    February 9, 2014 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  14. Silence DoGood

    @Tampa Tim
    If Obama went to Sochi, the brain dead wingnuts would complain he is wasting tax payer money to travel to see a communist. This way, they can complain that . . . he didn't waste taxpayer money on travel to see a communist?
    Complain either way – that is indeed the plan.
    My personal favorite is "Obama has done nothing as President and is a controlling dictator".

    February 9, 2014 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  15. don in albuquerque

    libs arethick

    I am certain this will come as a shock too you, since you hold Putin in such high regard...... but so far the Syrians have thumbed their noses at Putins masterful, and diplomatic prevention efforts. They have missed every deadline including handing over their chemical weapons. Since you know so much, perhaps YOU should go over and deal with them.

    February 9, 2014 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  16. Anonymous

    Tolerance and diversity are being thwarted by Forces in the Republican Party.

    February 9, 2014 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  17. Dan Britten

    I can think of a lot of people I would want to visit me if I were President of Russia, and Obama's not even in the top 100.

    February 9, 2014 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |