President Obama isn't used to personal failures, especially when it's a question of winning over foreigners. So when Chicago was tossed out in the first round, it had to hurt. Now, will he blame DHS?
There's a minicampaign to make sure that happens. A Pakistani IOC member asked about the "harrowing" process of getting into the US, and the President himself fielded the question. President Obama made his by-now-familiar appeal to America at its best, saying “One of the legacies I want to see is a reminder that America at its best is open to the world.”
If the President takes his loss in Copenhagen personally, and he might, there are plenty of people hoping that he'll take it out on DHS. The New York Times is enthusiastic about placing the blame on US border controls, and so is the US travel industry.
“It’s clear the United States still has a lot of work to do to restore its place as a premier travel destination,” Roger Dow, U.S. Travel’s president, said in the statement released today. “When IOC members are commenting to our President that foreign visitors find traveling to the United States a ‘pretty harrowing experience,’ we need to take seriously the challenge of reforming our entry process to ensure there is a welcome mat to our friends around the world, even as we ensure a secure system.”
No matter who's in the White House, the first rule is always this: When bad things happen it's never the President's fault; somebody else screwed up. I'm sure that the President was offered the easy story that he lost because of border security no later than the flight home. Whether he buys it will tell us a lot about him and his commitment to security.
The President will either take the hit from Copenhagen and move on because he sees border security measures as too important to mess with or he will let DHS take the hit under White House Rule No. 1. It's a hard choice -- between accepting a nick in the President's reputation and risking a dilution of border security. That's why it will tell us something about him -- because policymaking only matters when hard choices are made.