By Sarah Kwak
Anyone who thinks politics and sports shouldn't mix ought to think about emerging from the Cave. Politics is in everything -- why else would John McCain liken Barack Obama to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears in a recent TV ad? Why else wouldn't the Koreas march together in the Opening Ceremony after indicating for months that they would? In international athletic competition, sport is more than scores; it's nationalism. Sometimes, a most civilized form of warfare.
The truth is that President George W. Bush's visit to China wasn't just about his being a fan, and he understood that. He knew he would be expected to further talks with China's authoritarian regime about its stance on human rights, press and religious freedom, etc. And so, it shouldn't have come as a surprise (to him or any of us) that Bob Costas threw down last night in a live interview with the President.
For those who thought the interview inappropriate given the nature of Bush's visit to Beijing (sports), don't be ridiculous. It isn't often that Bush speaks one-on-one to anybody on live TV, and there wouldn't have been anything more disappointing than listening to him answer questions like: What's been your favorite part about your trip so far? Or how do you like Michael Phelps's chances in the 200 fly?
I thought the interview, from Costas's standpoint, went pretty well, though I wish he had thought to ask more pointed follow-up questions in response to some of Bush's remarks --such as, "I don't see America having problems." Sub-prime mortgage crisis, anyone? Gas at $5 a gallon? Um, Iraq?
The President, meanwhile, aside from his all-too-relaxed side-slouch, seemed about as prepared as he's going to be for questions he doesn't have the answers to anyway. I don't think the questions surprised him; he's been in office long enough to know what's coming. And at least he expressed a public concern about the escalating conflict between Russia and Georgia.
In today's world it's important that people seek common ground -- and the Olympics offer a unique opportunity for a worldwide audience to do just that. Especially during the Olympic Games, a marquee international summit of sorts, why should anyone expect or even want a separation of sport and state?
What do you think? Was Costas's line of questioning appropriate? And did Bush handle it well?