Camp David’s gain was Chicago’s loss, but it could have been worse.
President Barack Obama’s abrupt decision to move the Group of Eight Summit to his Maryland retreat was a blow to Chicago’s prestige and its new mayor, who took a few days to make the case that this was not like losing the Olympics.
True, Chicago was not left empty-handed: The defense-oriented NATO summit is a much larger event and likely to be more historic than the annual economic get-together. But it’s like losing the sizzle and keeping the steak—everybody knows which part sells the best.
Of course, international exposure could turn sour if the city’s image is marred by violent demonstrations and a police crackdown. On the plus side, it seems highly unlikely more protesters will show up for the NATO summit alone, and probably a lot fewer.
But even without the G8, all the ingredients are still there for the city to reap a big boost to its international profile. A close look at how other cities have handled similar events shows that any long-term benefits hinge mainly on what the city does with the opportunity.
Obama owes a lot to the Chicago Machine, and the citizens there, who expected a big payout, are getting restive. First, he tried to pay them off on the cheap with the Olympics, riding in at the last minute and failing. Then, he tried to impose high-speed rail on the Midwest, which would inordinately have benefited Chicago.
Crain’s is usually pretty good, so it’s unfortunate that they don’t mention the paradox of Obama and congressional Dems strongly supporting Occupy when their targets aren’t . . . well, themselves. It may be that the city government and Rahm Emanuel were afraid of embarrassment, or that they calculated the security costs to the city would outweigh the benefit to businesses that would come to the city indirectly. Naturally, if there were a Republican President, NATO would pose a much greater provocation.