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March Madness: Obama picks McCain's team to lose in first round

By Jimmy Orr / March 18, 2009

President Obama talks hoops with University of North Carolina head coach Roy Williams in a photo from last year. The president selected the Tar Heels to win the Men's NCAA Basketball Tournament this year.

JAE C. HONG/AP/FILE

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There are times when you have to put partisan politics aside for the good of the country. And this is one those times.

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Although woefully wrong in selecting Memphis to topple UConn in the Western regional, President Obama deserves a standing O-vation for participating in March Madness.

You know, getting in the office pool. Picking who you think will go all the way to the Final Four in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. It's an American tradition. Possibly the finest.

Good TV

Following through on a campaign promise to give ESPN the exclusive look at his brackets if elected, the President invited Andy Katz from the sports network into the Map Room of the White House to unveil his selections.

It's smart. He's got a high enough approval rating where the American public will let him get away with it.

Although there will be screams of "Focus on the economy!" and "Get our money back from AIG!", and "Charles Grassley is right!" it's OK to do this now. If his approval rating dips below 50 (it always fluctuates), it would be far riskier to pull off.

Case in point: BarneyCam in 2003 versus BarneyCam in 2008.

His picks

He went all chalk!

That's what some sports enthusiasts are yelling today after looking at the president's picks.

For non-March Madness fans (how is this possible?), that means he played it safe. Didn't pick the upsets. Take a look at his brackets here.

Sure, the president selected Louisville, North Carolina, Memphis and Pittsburgh to advance to the Final Four, but they're not all number ones. But close enough. Memphis is second ranked and it wouldn't have surprised anyone if they were seeded No. 1.

The problem with playing it safe is that there will always be Bucknells, Davidsons, and George Masons. That's what makes the tournament great.

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