Commentary Magazine


Posts For: April 5, 2008

Re: Why We Shouldn’t Boycott the 2008 Games

David Hazony, in a well-reasoned posting in this forum, argues that nations should not boycott this year’s Summer Olympics, scheduled to begin in August in Beijing. No one wants to snuff out young athletes’ dreams, as he puts it, but we must remember that they are not the only ones whose fortunes are at stake. Chinese people have been forcibly relocated, illegally incarcerated, and unjustifiably deprived of basic rights so that autocrats can stage a celebration of more than a half century of misrule. They have, in order to put on their extravaganza, reemployed mass-mobilization techniques and reimposed strict social controls, the essential tools of totalitarian governance.

At home, China’s government has implemented a campaign of repression now lasting five years. Abroad, Beijing in this half decade has continued its support for criminal regimes and persisted in other irresponsible policies. Whether we like it or not, participation in the Olympics is giving legitimacy to all the Chinese state has done internally and externally. Moreover, that state is having an extended argument with its people, and by participating in the Olympics we are taking the wrong side.

As China’s Communist Party so often says, the Games should not be “politicized.” Yet the reality is that it has already done so. Beijing made the promotion of Chinese human rights a foundation of its Olympic bid. It will be using its Olympic torch relay, the longest in history, to bolster its claim to restive areas, including Tibet. And Chinese leaders have, without precedent, invited about fifty heads of state to the opening ceremony on August 8 so that they can, at least in China’s eyes, pledge their allegiance to the People’s Republic of China.

Nonetheless, Hazony says we should refuse to boycott the Games so that athletes can conduct a “symbolic debate on the playing field.” I agree that we should not punish the contestants for the gross error made by others of awarding the Olympics to China. But now that this mistake has been made, no world leader should show support for the Chinese Communist Party. The opening ceremony has nothing to do with sport. This year, it will be a mass event with totalitarian overtones. For the sake of the great people of China, no one-no president, prime minister, or athlete-should participate in this glorification of all that is reprehensible and repugnant.

David Hazony, in a well-reasoned posting in this forum, argues that nations should not boycott this year’s Summer Olympics, scheduled to begin in August in Beijing. No one wants to snuff out young athletes’ dreams, as he puts it, but we must remember that they are not the only ones whose fortunes are at stake. Chinese people have been forcibly relocated, illegally incarcerated, and unjustifiably deprived of basic rights so that autocrats can stage a celebration of more than a half century of misrule. They have, in order to put on their extravaganza, reemployed mass-mobilization techniques and reimposed strict social controls, the essential tools of totalitarian governance.

At home, China’s government has implemented a campaign of repression now lasting five years. Abroad, Beijing in this half decade has continued its support for criminal regimes and persisted in other irresponsible policies. Whether we like it or not, participation in the Olympics is giving legitimacy to all the Chinese state has done internally and externally. Moreover, that state is having an extended argument with its people, and by participating in the Olympics we are taking the wrong side.

As China’s Communist Party so often says, the Games should not be “politicized.” Yet the reality is that it has already done so. Beijing made the promotion of Chinese human rights a foundation of its Olympic bid. It will be using its Olympic torch relay, the longest in history, to bolster its claim to restive areas, including Tibet. And Chinese leaders have, without precedent, invited about fifty heads of state to the opening ceremony on August 8 so that they can, at least in China’s eyes, pledge their allegiance to the People’s Republic of China.

Nonetheless, Hazony says we should refuse to boycott the Games so that athletes can conduct a “symbolic debate on the playing field.” I agree that we should not punish the contestants for the gross error made by others of awarding the Olympics to China. But now that this mistake has been made, no world leader should show support for the Chinese Communist Party. The opening ceremony has nothing to do with sport. This year, it will be a mass event with totalitarian overtones. For the sake of the great people of China, no one-no president, prime minister, or athlete-should participate in this glorification of all that is reprehensible and repugnant.

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Taxes: Hers, Not Ours

Hillary Clinton did get around to releasing her 2000-2007 tax returns. Yes, she and Bill made gobs of money, but apparently they gave gobs to charity (albeit to the Clinton Foundation) and paid gobs in taxes. Isn’t this a non-story?

Among her many tales, she never pled poverty (or grumbled about summer camp fees for Chelsea) so I see no reason why this should matter. And in the walking-the-walk department, her charitable donations (9.5% of income, with some variation year to year) stack up quite favorably against her opponent.

So barring further revelations, I don’t quite see why she waited so long to release her returns. Like many things related to the Clintons, you wonder why transparency and honesty isn’t the first, rather than last, option.

Hillary Clinton did get around to releasing her 2000-2007 tax returns. Yes, she and Bill made gobs of money, but apparently they gave gobs to charity (albeit to the Clinton Foundation) and paid gobs in taxes. Isn’t this a non-story?

Among her many tales, she never pled poverty (or grumbled about summer camp fees for Chelsea) so I see no reason why this should matter. And in the walking-the-walk department, her charitable donations (9.5% of income, with some variation year to year) stack up quite favorably against her opponent.

So barring further revelations, I don’t quite see why she waited so long to release her returns. Like many things related to the Clintons, you wonder why transparency and honesty isn’t the first, rather than last, option.

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No Good Choices

The latest Diageo/Hotline poll illustrates the dilemma Democratic voters are facing. Barack Obama is now leading Hillary Clinton 50% to 38%, a seven-point increase for him and a seven-point drop for her since the February poll. However, when stacked up against John McCain, Obama now trails 44% to 46%, a ten-point swing for McCain since last month’s poll.

In short, the Democrats are embracing a candidate who is doing worse over time against McCain. Is that the Wright affair gnawing away at Obama’s electability? Or are momentarily disaffected Clinton voters expressing frustration to pollsters? We don’t know yet. Whatever the cause, it seems that Clinton’s analysis of the situation (Obama may not match up well against McCain) is better than her solution (Choose me instead). She is simply not an acceptable option for most Democrats.

This problem could worsen over time. If by June Clinton has not moved appreciably closer to Obama in either the delegate count or the popular vote, but Obama is doing worse and worse against McCain, what will the Democrats–and especially those superdelegates–do?

Throwing Obama overboard would be immensely difficult: it risks an open revolt and potentially irreparable damage to the party’s hopes of unifying for the general election. But would the Democrats simply take the plunge with a candidate who would be a losing bet against McCain?

For those who like intrigue and far-fetched plots, this would be the Al Gore moment. For the good of the party, superdelegates put his name in play and he rescues the Democrats from electoral disaster. Does it seem too far-fetched? Yes. But less than it used to.

The latest Diageo/Hotline poll illustrates the dilemma Democratic voters are facing. Barack Obama is now leading Hillary Clinton 50% to 38%, a seven-point increase for him and a seven-point drop for her since the February poll. However, when stacked up against John McCain, Obama now trails 44% to 46%, a ten-point swing for McCain since last month’s poll.

In short, the Democrats are embracing a candidate who is doing worse over time against McCain. Is that the Wright affair gnawing away at Obama’s electability? Or are momentarily disaffected Clinton voters expressing frustration to pollsters? We don’t know yet. Whatever the cause, it seems that Clinton’s analysis of the situation (Obama may not match up well against McCain) is better than her solution (Choose me instead). She is simply not an acceptable option for most Democrats.

This problem could worsen over time. If by June Clinton has not moved appreciably closer to Obama in either the delegate count or the popular vote, but Obama is doing worse and worse against McCain, what will the Democrats–and especially those superdelegates–do?

Throwing Obama overboard would be immensely difficult: it risks an open revolt and potentially irreparable damage to the party’s hopes of unifying for the general election. But would the Democrats simply take the plunge with a candidate who would be a losing bet against McCain?

For those who like intrigue and far-fetched plots, this would be the Al Gore moment. For the good of the party, superdelegates put his name in play and he rescues the Democrats from electoral disaster. Does it seem too far-fetched? Yes. But less than it used to.

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