Yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi greeted the Dalai Lama on Capitol Hill. The reception was entirely appropriate. The Dalai Lama is an important symbol not only of the struggle for political freedom against tyranny but also of the value of non-violent protest. But the Dalai Lama won’t be making a stop at the White House during his current 10-day stay in Washington. President Obama is apparently determined to do nothing to anger China and is refusing to give the Dalai Lama another meeting.
It is true Obama has already met with the Tibetan leader in exile once. But unlike the reception the Dalai Lama got during the presidency of George W. Bush, the visit with Obama was low-key, and only one photo of the two men together was permitted. From its earlier days in office, this administration has demonstrated little interest in human rights issues. But its penchant for “realist” policies have done nothing to advance American interests.
As Elliot Abrams wrote earlier this week on his blog for the Council on Foreign Relations, Obama is making a big mistake. The Chinese only respect strength and the administration’s determination to appease Beijing will pay no dividends for U.S. policy. The Chinese haven’t helped much on Iran or any other outstanding issue but that hasn’t stopped Obama from behaving in a cowardly manner when it comes to any issue that might discomfit the Communist leadership of the world’s largest tyranny. By taking a pass on another meeting with a truly inspirational world figure, all the president has done is to show once again how small a man he really is.