Bush May Go Where No Prez Has Gone Before

Amid the tussle over the torch in San Francisco this week, and the debate on whether President Bush should attend the Olympic opening ceremonies in Beijing, one small fact has been lost.

"If he does go, he would be the first U.S. president to attend a foreign Olympics -– period," said David Wallechinsky, author of the forthcoming book "The Complete Book on the Olympics."

In more than 100 years since the modern Olympic movement began, presidents have never attended the games outside the United States.

Not in Berlin, in 1936, where Adolph Hitler began the tradition of the torch relay race.

Not in Mexico City, in 1968, where several African-American medalists stirred controversy by looking down during the national anthem, all the while holding up their clenched fists in a Black Power salute.

Not in Munich, in 1972, when Palestinian terrorists murdered 11 Israeli athletes.

Politics have often intruded on the games. But Bush himself would make a political statement by attending at all.

"It would be a huge gesture," Wallechinsky said, "and in China of all places."

China's ongoing occupation of Tibet and its failure to pressure the government of Sudan (in which China is a huge investor) to resolve the humanitarian crisis in Darfur has raised the hackles among human rights activists and U.S. presidential candidates.

Protesters have tried to swarm the Olympic torch In Paris, London and San Francisco. On the campaign trail, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., led the charge for the president to boycott the opening ceremonies of the Summer Games in Beijing.

"The president should not attend opening ceremonies because that's giving a seal of approval by our United States government, unless the Chinese take actions to deal more forthrightly with human rights challenges," Clinton told an audience in Pennsylvania.

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., was initially reluctant to mix sports and politics. His hometown of Chicago is hoping to host the games in 2016, and one of his closest advisers, Valerie Jarrett, is vice chairwoman of the city's bid.

But Obama finally followed Clinton's lead Wednesday. "If the Chinese do not take steps to help stop the genocide in Darfur and to respect the dignity, security and human rights of the Tibetan people, then the president should boycott the opening ceremonies," he said.

Not to be outdone, John McCain, R-Ariz., expressed his view Thursday on ABC's "The View."

"Unless they change something pretty quickly, I would not go to the opening ceremonies," McCain told Barbara Walters and her co-hosts.

Meanwhile, said author Wallechinsky, "Everyone seems to agree that President Bush shouldn't attend the Olympics -- except President Bush," he said.

But the President is holding firm. "I have made it very clear, I'm going to the Olympics because it's a sporting event, and I'm looking forward to seeing the athletic competition," he said at a news conference in February.

He reiterated that position Friday in an interview with ABC's Chief White House Correspondent Martha Raddatz.

Raddatz: "Are you still insisting on going to these opening ceremonies?

Bush: "My plans haven't changed."

Afterwards, the White House clarified that Bush is not necessarily talking about the opening ceremonies. He may just be a spectator at some of the sporting events.

Even so, that still would be a first.

In 2004, Bush sent his father to Athens. In 2000, Chelsea Clinton represented her father in Sydney.

"Sitting Presidents have simply never gone to Olympics held outside the United States," author Wallechinsky said.