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Obama's Olympic Failure Highlights Limits of His International Appeal

President Barack Obama pauses during the Chicago 2016 bid presentation

This wasn't supposed to happen to him.

It may have only been the Olympics but President Obama's high-profile failure to win the games for Chicago has raised serious questions about his perceived international star power.

The president's last-minute appeal for his home city to host the 2016 Summer Games fell flat when Chicago was knocked out in the first round. The top prize eventually went to Rio de Janeiro.

Now critics are asking: If Obama can't sway Olympic officials, how can he wring concessions from Iran on its nuclear program, secure crucial support from allies to overhaul two wars or rebuild the U.S. image in the Middle East?

But others downplay Obama's failure in Copenhagen.

"Competing to host the Olympics has nothing in common with negotiating arms control treaties or negotiating Iranian compliance to its treaty obligations," foreign policy analyst Joseph Cirincione told FOXNews.com in a phone interview from Switzerland.

Cirincione said Olympic officials pay little attention to the persuasive skills of the negotiator, noting that former South African President Nelson Mandela failed to get them to award the games to his country.

But Obama's failure in Copenhagen is feeding a growing perception that he is tall on rhetoric and short on results and more of a celebrity than a leader.

Since taking office in January, Obama has made a number of gestures to the international community. He ordered the closing of the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, banned the torture of terrorist suspects and moved to address climate change and reduce nuclear weapons. He even delivered a high-profile speech to the Muslim world.

Still, the president doesn't have much to show for his efforts. Despite his global overtures, Obama has been rebuffed by international leaders for stimulus money, for additional troops in Afghanistan and now the Olympics.

"It shows how childish our understanding of international affairs is," political analyst Tucker Carlson told FOX News. "The idea that countries, because they like the president personally, will change their basic positions on things is absurd."

Countries act in their own interest, Carlson said, and U.S. elections don't affect what those interests are.

"So the idea that Obama, because he's popular in the rest of the world, will somehow make America a more effective negotiator internationally, that's absurd," he said. "That was one of the reasons people voted for this president in the first place. I thought it was silly then. It's proved to be silly now. This is an adult world. People don't act because they have affection for a leader."

Obama tried to save face upon his return to the White House, congratulating Brazil and thanking those who worked on Chicago's bid. 

But his involvement in the Olympic quest has drawn harsh criticism of his leadership.

Supporters, though, say Obama would have been criticized either way.

"I think there is a group of people that use anything and everything to attack President Obama no matter what," Cirincione said. 

"It is totally bizarre that some people would put their personal hatred of President Obama above their loyalty to this country and actually cheer when the U.S. loses a bid to host the Olympics," he added. "To me it shows how obsessed some people are with the personality, the psychology of Barack Obama."   

But Carlson said it was foolish for Obama to put his credibility on the line when the outcome was uncertain.

"Just like a lawyer never asks questions of a witness in court unless he knows what the answers are going to be, you don't want to send the president out on a high profile mission like this unless you're certain he's going to succeed," he told FOX News.

That raises questions about whether Obama will do as poorly predicting how health care votes are leaning in Congress and make similarly ill-fated strategic decisions as that complex debate plays out for the rest of the year.

Carlson said the aides who advised the president to go to Copenhagen should be fired immediately.

"I think that's a feeling among Democrats, too," he said. "This made the president look like an amateur."

But Carlson added it may have been good for Obama to suffer such a public humiliation.

"It's good for us to fail in a high profile way every once in a while because it reminds us that we're not God and there are limits in our ability to sway other people," he said.

"The one thing President Obama hasn't done very often is fail. Failing puts your life in perspective and it keeps you from overreaching the next time. This administration overreaches dramatically. Maybe this will cause him to rethink some other policy."