In the substantive debate, aptly argued by Gordon Chang and David Hazony, over whether the U.S. should participate in the Olympics, I find myself searching for a clear middle ground. To my shock, Hillary Clinton steps forward to offer this:
The violent clashes in Tibet and the failure of the Chinese government to use its full leverage with Sudan to stop the genocide in Darfur are opportunities for Presidential leadership. These events underscore why I believe the Bush administration has been wrong to downplay human rights in its policy towards China. At this time, and in light of recent events, I believe President Bush should not plan on attending the opening ceremonies in Beijing, absent major changes by the Chinese government. I encourage the Chinese to take advantage of this moment as an opportunity to live up to universal human aspirations of respect for human rights and unity, ideals that the Olympic games have come to represent. Americans will stand strong in support of freedom of religious and political expression and human rights. Americans will also stand strong and root for the success of American athletes who have worked hard and earned the right to compete in the Olympic Games of 2008.
This strikes me, aside from the argument’s merits, as just plain smart politics. It shifts the focus off Penn-gate. It sounds a note simultaneously likely to appeal to those on the Right (who like standing up to dictators) and Left (who want more attention to human rights). She was first of the candidates to speak up on this issue and now looks bolder than her opponents. If this is a sign of the post-Penn Hillary, things may be looking up.