Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is breaking with his congressional BFF, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), in suggesting that an Olympic boycott should be on the table if Russia keeps acting bad.
The U.S. Olympic Committee quickly rejected a suggestion that the U.S. boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
“If there are any lessons to be learned from the American boycott of 1980, it is that Olympic boycotts do not work. Our boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games did not contribute to a successful resolution of the underlying conflict. It did, however, deprive hundreds of American athletes, all whom had completely dedicated themselves to representing our nation at the Olympic Games, of the opportunity of a lifetime,” spokesman Patrick Sandusky said.
“It also deprived millions of Americans of the opportunity to take pride in the achievements of our athletes, and in their dedication and commitment, at a time when we needed it most,” he added. “While we acknowledge the seriousness of the issues at hand, we strongly oppose the notion that a boycott of the Olympic and Paralympic Games is in our country’s best interests.”
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) also said this morning that such a boycott would simply “punish U.S. athletes who have been training for three years to compete in the Olympics over a traitor who can’t find a place to call home” — a reference to NSA leaker Edward Snowden, who hasn’t left Moscow.
“I love Senator Graham. We’ve been close friends for 20 years. But I think he’s dead wrong,” Boehner said.
On CNN this afternoon, Graham said “it’s not just about Snowden.”
“Russia has aligned themselves with Iran to keep Assad in power. And here’s my question to the Congress and the president. What does Russia have to do before we push back?” he said. “And do I want to cancel the Olympics from an American point of view? No.”
“But would I go to Moscow a year and a half from now if they were continuing to support Assad and 200,000 Syrians had been killed, the king of Jordan had been toppled because of the civil war in Syria, Iraq is falling apart, the arms that the Russians are selling Assad falls into Hezbollah’s hands to be used against Iran, they give Snowden asylum and they help the Iranians march toward a nuclear weapon. Would I accept an invitation sent by Putin? No. I don’t want to boycott the Olympics, but I want a policy that will get the Russians’ attention.”
Graham said when President Bush looked into Russian President Vladimir Putin’s eyes, he “made a mistake.”
“I see a pretty dark figure,” the senator said.
“It’s all about Russia and what they’re doing in the world at a time when it matters. Would Assad stay in power if Russia stopped selling him arms? No. If he left, would the world be a better place? Yes. There would be a mess to follow in Syria, but the king of Jordan would not be toppled because of the war within,” Graham continued.
“If they gave Snowden asylum, a man that’s been charged with serious crimes, it would be an affront to us as a nation. At what point does the president, who has a policy I don’t understand regarding Russia, and the Congress begin to push back? Should have we gone to the Olympics in Berlin in 1936 and give Hitler a propaganda platform to sell his regime?”
He then said he wasn’t comparing Russia to Nazi Germany.
“What I’m saying is would you have the Olympics in Iran? I don’t think most people would. Is Russia Iran? No, but they’re heading in that direction.”