“Why would Mitt Romney steal the spotlight from our US Olympic athletes during the Olympics?”
This was my immediate reaction when I heard that Romney was announcing his choice for Vice President on Saturday morning. I couldn’t understand why Mitt could not wait until after the Olympic ended Sunday night to make this announcement? And I can assure you that I would be asking the identical question if a Democratic presidential candidate had done the same thing. Respect for our Olympic aathletes should never be a partisan issue. (Although there's no doubt if President Obama had made a major political announcement during the Olympics, some on the right would claim it was a sign Obama didn't love America enough or some other attack on his patriotism.)
There was no rush for Mitt to make this announcement. He had made his choice of Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate on August 1. He had waited this long to share it with us, why not wait a few more days so that our Olympians could receive the full media attention they deserve?
If Mitt had simply waited until Monday to make his announcement, it would not have had any negative impact on Romney’s campaign. His choice of Ryan would have still clearly dominated the news headlines and been the story of the week.
Romney could have even waited till next weekend to inform us of his VP pick. The Republican National Convention doesn’t kick off until August 27 and this announcement in the days before it would have built excitement for that event. Indeed, that’s what John McCain did by announcing Sarah Palin as his running mate on August 28, 2008, four days before that year’s nominating convention.
Instead, Romney chose to reveal his choice for vice president at a press spectacle on a US Navy battleship during a weekend showcasing close to 100 Olympic matches—including diving, cycling, women’s volleyball, basketball, and track and field. And these events are almost all finals, which means the award of Olympic medals for the athletes competing.
Our American Olympians have trained and sacrificed for years to make it to this level. This is their chance to proudly represent the United States. It’s also their opportunity to receive some well-deserved recognition for their work. For most of these athletes, this will be the pinnacle of their athletic career. There are no million-dollar paydays awaiting the bulk of them. This is their payday. This is their brief, but well-earned, shining moment.
People like Pittsburgh’s Jake Herbert who is in his first Olympics ever wrestling at the 84kg level after a stellar college wrestling career. And University of Arizona Junior Brigetta Barrett who will be going for the gold this weekend in the Women’s High jump. Or Nick McCrory, a diver who finished two places short of qualifying for the 2008 Olympics, but who continued to persevere and this year achieved his dream of donning the red, white and blue uniform in the Olympics.
And there are also the US Olympic teams competing for gold medals this weekend, such as the women’s volleyball team which features athletes like Lindsey Berg, who was a back up player for the past two Olympics but finally in 2012 made it to be a starting player for the US team.
What makes the timing of this announcement even more astounding is that Mitt Romney was the head of the 2002 Olympic games. Consequently, he’s fully aware of the daunting challenges these athletes had to overcome to make the US Olympic team. The pressures they are under to perform well while representing our nation. And the recognition they truly deserve for their efforts.
Why did Romney make his announcement now? Possibly because a new poll released earlier this week showed Romney now trailing President Obama by seven points and he felt compelled to so something now? Maybe he was feeling the heat from others in his party to make the announcement as soon as possible? We can’t be certain.
But what we do know for sure is that Romney was aware that the Olympics games were taking place and that his announcement would overshadow our Olympic athletes. This selfish decision by Romney tells us possibly more about him as a person than any of his stands on the issues.