We have previously discussed the rage of powerful politicians embarrassed by the disclosures of Edward Snowden. The President and the Congress suddenly found themselves having to explain years of false statements and an unprecedented attack on privacy in America because of Snowden. Our governing class had long ago adopted a type of dismissive paternalism toward the public as shepherds to so many sheep. Then one sheep goes and spooks the flock. The response has been bipartisan rage that has included demands to cut off aid to entire nations if they grant sanctuary to this whistleblower. As usual, however, Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., will not be outdone. After hearing that Snowden has asked Russia for sanctuary, Graham has suggested boycotting the Olympics. That’s right, he is taking one of Jimmy Carter’s most controversial ideas and suggesting a repeat — thereby ruining the ambitions and tossing out years of preparations for hundreds of athletes. Why? To punish a country for protecting someone most people in the world view as either a hero or a whistleblower.
The hilarious thing about this suggestion is that it would more likely encourage Russia to grant asylum. Russia would love to see a U.S. boycott. It would result in a windfall of medals and make the United States look like an arrogant, privacy-hating, dissident-hunting thug nation. Graham insists that the Russians were “outrageous” in considering the request — outrage that neither he nor his colleagues feel about eviscerating privacy or perjury by high ranking officials. The shepherds want Snowden made into mutton for stampeding the flock and no measure appears too extreme.
Boycotting the Olympic would in his view “send the Russians the most unequivocal signal.” It would indeed. It could send them the unequivocal signal that we are self-defeating unhinged morons.
Just for those on blog who were too young to witness our last boycott, Carter barred our participation in the Summer Olympics in the Soviet Union over the invasion of Afghanistan. Four years later the Soviets responded by boycotting the Summer Olympics held in Los Angeles. At least Carter had a compelling reason for his actions. A nation had been invaded and other countries joined us in the boycott
But back to the Olympics. I was highly sympathetic to Carter who I liked. However, this gesture did little to truly punish the Russians and it was a nightmare for athletes. The whole point of the games is for countries to transcend their differences to meet every four years on a common field of competition. There are always such divisions, some like Afghanistan, quite serious. However, the beauty of the games is that they force nations to come together in open and fair competition. I also felt a terrible unfairness even in the Summer 1980 games for our athletes who became pawns in a global power struggle (and equal sympathy for the Russia athletes four years later). These athletes represent not only their nations but humanity in achieving greater and greater perfection and considerable personal cost and sacrifice. It is highly obnoxious to see a politicians just tossing out such a ban on hundreds of such athletes as a cheap expression of anger that countries are not turning over a single individual.
Even if such a boycott is ever justified, and Carter made the strongest case, this would be a boycott in a controversy where most of the world views us as the abusing nation. To put it in 1980s Olympic terms, we are Russia in this situation. Rather than invading Russia, our country invaded privacy and lied to the public and our allies. We now want to stop the games because our politicians are peeved at being forced to admit to these abuses.
For that, Graham gets a perfect ten for a manuever we can call the double klutz with a Carter split.