But it was only the Olympics?
The President's administration will play down this Copenhagen farce with comments like "disappointed", "only the Olympics, nothing important", but this is a disaster for Obama, and the United States.
The President of the United States cannot show up in a minor role. His involvement is always that of the leader of the free world. When the President is there, the head of state of the United States is there, the richest and most powerful nation in the world is there, and is not to be trifled with. Indeed, the United States should never put itself in a position to be trifled with.
Therefore, any observer watching Obama jet across the seas to promote Chicago's cause would reasonably conclude that it was already in the bag, that someone with Obama's skills, access to intelligence, "in" connections, and resources would have already bribed or coughed up whatever was necessary to win. Obama could then bask in the rapturous acclaim due to the First Citizen of the World.
One might equally have assumed that Obama would not have gone had not the issue already been settled. Putin, as always, is the gold standard. When he went to the Olympic Committee to promote Sochi for the 2014 games, of course he won. But then, he would have known it, or even arranged it, before he walked out the door. Please try to imagine Putin showing up, applying a full court press, and the Olympic Committee shrugging and saying "nyet". It beggars the imagination.
In the nineteenth century, the Royal Navy would not use its guns in salute unless it was known that the salute would be returned. Even a midshipman in command of a six-oar rowboat with a swivel gun knew this. If it wasn't certain, a party would be sent ashore to find out the port-admiral's intentions. An unreciprocated salute was an insufferable insult, so it was far better in cases of doubt to not put the honor of the Service at risk.
Similarly, no serious leader would countenance exposing himself and his country to such an easily avoidable affront, especially by such a snivelling parcel of amateurs, and still expect to command respect in the world. Anybody who caves in to Obama from now on has less beans than a sports panel.
But, unbelievably, it turned out that 2016 was not in the bag! Obama set off on a "take no prisoners" campaign with nothing more than his unexampled hubris, apparently believing that his persona and magnificence would win over a few starstruck IOC cheerleaders. Obama gambled the prestige of the United States on an opportunity to enhance his personal glory if he won. He lost. He can pretend that it is nothing, but unfortunately it is not nothing. Michelle is furious, and for once, I agree with her.
Only the Olympics? Obama does not have the connections, force of will, rhetoric or naked power to browbeat even the Olympic Committee, nor the intelligence capability to uncover its intentions. Now he has to face the Iranians and North Koreans, and the Grand Master, Putin, without getting his lunch money stolen. This is why this mis-step is such a disaster.
World leaders now know, with certainty, that Obama is satisfied to conduct affairs of state by the seat of his pants. He is looking only to cover himself in glory, for which he is willing to expose the prestige of the United States to hooting derision. This is a telegraphed weakness that foreign ministries around the world will carefully study. Now that Obama has, in such a short time, already provided an extensive catalog of bad judgment, weakness, and willingness to abandon allies, he will be tested far, far beyond that which a strong leader and confident nation would be expected to endure.