The Chicago loss is actually a win? I know. It’s hard to wrap your head around it. I got a sense of this as I test-drove my counter-intuitive (yet brilliant) theory by my baffled and distracted husband over the weekend. I figured he’d surely see the logic. After all, he’s now a spin doctor himself–Communications Director for VP Biden. Any silver-lining would immediately be picked up by his political radar, I thought. But all I got was a flicker of confusion in his eyes, and then the top of his head again as he returned to the Blackberry trenches.
So. Pay attention. I’ll move with caution.
Obama had to go. Imagine if he hadn’t gone, and we’d lost the bid. Can’t you hear the bellicose rhetoric about how “out of touch” and “unpatriotic” he is? It would have been take two on that campaign trail talk of an aloof and elitist guy who just doesn’t get what most Americans care about. “Did he dis the Olympics? The event that brings us together as a nation?”
I’d also argue he’d have gotten much the same treatment if he’d stayed home and we won the bid. “We got the Olympics, but no thanks to our clueless President,” it would have gone. And even worse, the win would have pissed off his critics, and increased their roiling, beneath the surface rage about his good luck. But more on that later.
Ok. Still with me? Here’s where real twists start. Sure, sure. It would have been great had he come home a winner. Great for all of us. But maybe not so much for him. Why? Because then he would have then really irked his critics. They’re already secretly and not so secretly peeved that he’s been voted the world’s prom king. Another victory would have just started a wave of dangerous, uncontrollable seething. You remember high school, right? We want that good-looking, popular quarterback to drop the ball sometimes. It makes us feel better about ourselves.
Now you see where I’m headed? That’s why I argue this loss is good for him. For him to put his reputation and ego on the line, head over there, and get humiliated–I say is the best thing that could happen for him–and maybe the administration. He’s come down a few notches in the eyes of the world, and that’s a good thing–he’s human. The world can relate.
It’s an especially good thing because it punctures his detractors ballooning and poisonous envy. Opponents, gleeful about their rivals’ embarrasement, become a bit less hazardous. In the meantime, everyone else can empathize, which sometimes makes the heart grow–more sympathetic. “I remember when I tried to make that pitch to the paper clip company, and they turned me down flat. Hmph. I guess it happens to all of us.”
Ok. Maybe we’re not all that empathetic. And I know, I know–everyone loves a winner. But the loss might make humility–not arrogance–the administration buzzword for a while. Learning to be a good loser is critical. That’s what I keep telling my kids, anyway. And having a larger than life role model–for trying one’s best, nodding to a deserving winner, and then moving on with grace–is invaluable.
It’s also true that losses test character. With so many truly meaningful battles ahead, maybe it was critical for this administration to be reminded it won’t win every time–but that it is important to truly engage in the fight. And then move on to the next one.