From this Sunday's Meet the Press, Mitt Romney was asked by host David Gregory to weigh in on the Winter Olympics in Sochi, and Romney used the opportunity to attack Russian President Vladimir Putin for wasting billions of dollars as part of an “unsavoury” vanity project to prop up his own political career:
However Romney, who made his name turning around the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002 before running unsuccessfully for president as a Republican in 2008 and 2012, risks being accused of hypocrisy. Several officials who worked alongside Romney in Salt Lake City have gone on record accusing him of using the Games for his own political gain.
Romney famously approved a series of Olympic pins bearing his own face, including one in which he was surrounded by official Games mascots beneath the slogan: “Hey Mitt, We Love You!” [...]
He added: “It is a very unsavoury thing and I think the International Olympic Committee is going to have to take action to limit how much is spent on Olympic Games.”
A former businessman who ran a successful Massachusetts gubernatorial campaign on the back of his Winter Olympics success, Romney made a similar argument earlier this week in a USA Today op-ed article.
“I personally attest that the Olympics is the experience of a lifetime for everyone who touches it,” he wrote. “To guarantee that the athletes remain the focus of the Games, and that the Olympics endures for generations to come, it is time to limit the excess.”
Of course, David Gregory didn't mention Romney using the Olympics to help launch his own political career, or his $1.3 billion tax payer funded bailout for the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, or him bringing Bain Capital with him to the Olympics -- which is what we've come to expect from Mr. I don't do fact checking, reporting is hard work Gregory.
GREGORY: I’m joined now by the man who headed up the Olympic Games the last time they were here in the U.S., former governor of Massachusetts and, of course, Republican presidential nominee in 2012, Mitt Romney. Governor, welcome back to MEET THE PRESS.
FMR. GOV. MITT ROMNEY (R-MA/2012 Republican Presidential Nominee/CEO, 2002 Winter Olympics): Thanks, David. Good to see you.
GREGORY: I want to ask you about these security threats. Last weekend on one of the Sunday programs, the chair of the House Homeland Security Committee said about the games in Russia, he fears that something will detonate, something will blow up. Do you think the security concerns have been overblown?
FMR. GOV. ROMNEY: No, I think they're very real when you have the kind of specific threats that were leveled at the games. You have to take them seriously. At the same time, I think Russia has shown not only through the application of their security forces, but also through their intelligence work that they have the capacity to keep the games reasonably safe. There's no such thing as a 100 percent guarantee, but I think at this stage people feel pretty comfortable that the games will be safe.
GREGORY: Well you've been critical of the Russian government as 50 billion dollars that it spent to host these games in Sochi, and you wrote a really pointed op-ed about this, this week. I’ll put a portion of it up on the screen for our viewers to see you write, “If a country wants to show off, what's the harm? Waste is harm, particularly when need is as great as it is. Harm occurs when a country spends more than it can afford to keep up appearances with big spenders. Harm occurs when a country is excluded from hosting an Olympics because it can't afford the fabulous frills. And harm occurs when the world's poor look in anguish at the excess." Time to limit that excess and why?
FMR. GOV. ROMNEY: Well, I really think so because you don't need to spend 50 billion dollars as Russia has or as China did to put an Olympic sport. Olympic sport can be demonstrated at two or three billion dollars. And all that extra money could be used to do some very important things in terms of fighting poverty and fighting disease around the world. That's what we really ought to be using those resources for as opposed to wasting them in many cases to show off a country or I think more cynically to show off the politicians in the country.
FMR. GOV. ROMNEY: And to take money from some people so that politicians can be puffed up and be shown around the world I think is something which is very distasteful at a time when there's so much poverty and so much need.
GREGORY: Do you think Putin views it as worth it? I assume he's among the politicians you're talking about being puffed up on the world stage.
FMR. GOV. ROMNEY: Oh, I think there's no question, but that the politicians who take this money and spend 50 billion dollars to host the world for TV appearances, I think they think it's worth it or they wouldn't spend it.
GREGORY: Is it still…
FMR. GOV. ROMNEY: A lot of that money certainly could be going into-- to corruption as well and-- and paying off various folks. It's a-- it’s a very unsavory thing. And I think the International Olympic Committee is going to have to take action to limit how much is spent on Olympic Games.
GREGORY: In terms of cities like Boston here in America, vying for future games, definitely worth it, you would say go for it; don't pass up the opportunity?
FMR. GOV. ROMNEY: Oh, it's a great experience to host an Olympic Games. Everybody that touches the Olympics that I’ve ever seen has said it was one of the greatest experiences of their life, not-- not because of all the fun they had but because of all the service they were able to give to others. It-- it's a great unifying thing. Boston would love it if the games came back-- came home.