Usain Bolt, the fastest man on the planet, won his eighth gold medal Thursday night by winning the 200-meter dash for the third time at the Olympics. I was captured by his comment during an interview with NBC. He said, “I’m always happy for the win, but I wanted a faster time.” This from a guy who had just beaten the rest of the world by more than a body length. He would go on to win his ninth gold Friday in the 4x100-meter relay. That’s what makes a champion. And that’s what makes the Olympics so compelling.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have swimmer Ryan Lochte and his robbed-at-gunpoint debacle that was a baldfaced lie that’s bound to make him bluer than his dyed hair. It could cost him millions of dollars in endorsements. It will cost his three teammates who were in on the scam, who don’t have Lochte’s name recognition, even more — their reputations. It’s already cost one, James Feigen, $10,800 to pay restitution to get his passport back so he could leave Brazil. Apparently the other two swimmers, Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger, fessed up when they were pulled off a plane while trying to get out of Rio while the gettin’ was good. Talk about embarrassing.
But it’s Lochte and Feigen who should bear the brunt of our scorn. Bentz is 20 and Conger is 21, certainly old enough to know better, but their seniors, Lochte at 32 and Feigen at 26, are far from boys. Lochte left the country with his teammates holding his Speedos and he went on to do a double-down interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer. He could have ended it all there, with a simple, “We had been out all night drinking and celebrating and I made it up,” but he didn’t. That’s not cool. It’s always the cover-up that gets you. It’s about character, but he wouldn’t know about that.
Aside from that, there have been so many great moments during these summer games that have taken our minds off the not-so-uplifting sport of politics. The American athletes have made us proud.
Meanwhile at home, our presidential race gets stranger by the day. Last Wednesday, Donald Trump shuffled the deck chairs on his Titanic-bound campaign as his chairman, Paul Manafort, came under scrutiny. By Friday, Manafort had jumped ship completely. Stephen Bannon of Breitbart News fame — a trash talking, take no prisoners website — is now Trump’s campaign chief and Kellyanne Conway is the campaign manager. Oh boy. Republican Senate candidates are heading for their liquor cabinets. The new duo will let Trump be Trump. Oh, and did I tell you the guy that just got drummed out of Fox News for sexual harassment, Roger Ailes, has been reportedly helping Trump, too, even before he was shown the door? So much for “fair and balanced.”
A few other curious items from last week. Republicans called it ransom money — $400 million for the release from Iran of three Americans, a Washington Post reporter, a Marine veteran and a pastor. The U.S. State Department called it leverage. The money, it said, was part of an almost 40-year-old arms deal. The Iranians paid, but we didn’t deliver. Seems we had issues with them deposing our friend the shah and taking Americans hostage. I can understand why Republicans call it ransom — and I understand why it could be called leverage. In any case, we got our people and they got their money. Diplomacy.
Lastly, I’d like to ask a question. Why, in a war, would anyone help the United States? Here’s why I ask. In Iraq and Afghanistan we needed people on the ground who could translate. We promised if they’d help us, we’d let them and their families come to the United States. We are reneging on that promise. All the talk about immigration has split Republicans, with some, like Sen. John McCain, saying we need to honor our commitment, and others, such as Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, now worried about the cost. In the meantime, about 12,000 translators and their families have to hide for fear of their lives and we have given our enemies a great recruiting tool.
McCain told his Senate colleagues, “People are going to die. Don’t you understand the gravity of that?” Well, Sen. McCain, you understand why they don’t understand: 80 percent of them have never worn the uniform.
With all that’s going on, I wish the Olympics could last until Nov. 9.