Overachiever-in-Chief: Is There an Issue the President Won't Weigh in On?

Sometimes the job of the president requires a bit of juggling.

The clock is ticking down until Congress heads out of town for its August recess and President Obama is still pushing for progress on health care reform. But on Monday he stepped back from the issue to do some sports lobbying on behalf of the United States.

Obama put his juggling skills to work with an Oval Office sales pitch to Joseph Blatter, the head of FIFA, soccer's international governing body.

The president's goal? To bring the 2018 or 2022 World Cup soccer championship to the United States.

This was not Obama's first leap into the international soccer scene.

This spring the president wrote a letter to FIFA in which he said: "Hosting another successful World Cup is important for the continued growth of the sport in the United States."

Obama's pitch was personal and echoed themes from his campaign.

"As a child, I played soccer on a dirt road in Jakarta, and the game brought the children of my neighborhood together. As a father, I saw that same spirit of unity alive on the fields and sidelines of my own daughters' soccer games in Chicago," he wrote. "[T]his bid is about much more than a game. It is about the United States of America inviting the world to gather all across our great country in celebration of our common hopes and dreams."

More than just a gesture of global unity, a World Cup in the United States would also mean a significant source of economic development and revenue for cities across the nation, which is why a meeting like this could land on the president's crowded schedule.

In the Oval Office on Monday, the lobbying went both ways. FIFA's Blatter wants Obama, whose daughters Malia and Sasha play soccer, to help raise the sport's profile in the United States. He also wants the American president in the stands at next year's World Cup in South Africa.

Obama has indicated recently that he's game.

Asked by a reporter at the G-8 summit last month if he was going to the 2010 World Cup, Obama quipped, "That's my goal. Did you get that, the little pun there?"

Obama told Blatter on Monday that he hopes his schedule will permit him to travel to South Africa next summer for the tournament.

Obama Pushes Chicago Olympic Bid

Obama tried to squeeze as much as he could out of the 30-minute meeting on Monday and had more than soccer on his mind.

Blatter is also a member of the International Olympic Committee. Obama's hometown of Chicago is one of the four finalists for the 2016 Summer Games and the Oval Office session gave the president the chance to present the city's credentials.

Obama has already vouched for the Windy City, calling it "that most American of American cities" in a video message for the International Olympic Committee on its visit to Chicago in April.

"After your visit, once you discover the Chicago that I know ... I am confident you will discover that you're already in the perfect host city for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games," Obama said.

According to recent polling, Obama and the United States are increasingly popular around the world, especially in Europe. A recent survey from the Pew Global Attitudes Project found that Obama has vastly higher approval ratings abroad than his predecessor, George W. Bush.

But as Obama's poll numbers start to decline at home, there may be no better time than now to try and capitalize on global good will and lock in high-profile sporting events for the United States.

"Clearly presidential popularity, any leader's popularity, is an essential element of their persuasive power to the extent that they can say they've got public preferences behind them, they get a lot more clout in negotiations," said Gary Langer, ABC News Polling Director.

"What the president is trying to do in bringing the World Cup here, bringing the Olympics here, is the same thing mayors and county executives and governors do, which is try and drum up some economic development and get credit for it," Langer said.

From soccer to the Olympics to even the college football championship system, Obama certainly has been outspoken on sports issues. But is the president risking overexposure by weighing in on so much outside the political arena?

"The big question in the country right now really is should Brett Favre sign with the Minnesota Vikings as quarterback? And I will wager that before the week is out, the president will have weighed in," quipped conservative pundit George Will on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday.

-- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 8186141.
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...