Did Obama Snub the Dalai Lama?

President Obama delays meeting with Tibet's exiled leader, prompting accusations of appeasing China

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On Monday, the Washington Post's John Pomfret reported that President Obama was bucking an eighteen-year precedent by postponing a meeting with the Dalai Lama until December, after the U.S. leader's scheduled meeting with Chinese President Hu Jinto. Recognizing that Tibet's spiritual and political head is set to confer with other lawmakers in Washington D.C. this week anyway, the blogosphere, especially on the right, has reacted with outrage and condemnation at Obama's apparent snub.

  • Confusing Enemies with Friends The Wall Street Journal points out that while Obama postpones his meeting with the Lama, he has "has found time to meet with Hugo Chavez, Daniel Ortega and Vladimir Putin," i.e. leaders generally considered dictatorial or corrupt by the American press and public. The editorial goes to accuse Obama of generally undermining America's support for international political freedom, independence and human rights. Below the Beltway's Doug Mataconis summarizes the assessment that the Obama Administration is getting its priorities entirely wrong: "President Obama has apparently decided that better relations with dictators is more important than meeting with a leader of people oppressed by those dictators."
  • Bush Knew Better Stop the ACLU notices a big difference between Obama and his predecessor in-office. In 2007, Bush personally awarded a Congressional Gold Medal to the Dalai Lama despite the fact that "he offered up some criticism to Bush both before and after the meeting, speaking his mind..." The blogger proceeds to mock Obama for a quality Bush apparently didn't have; narcissism: "But, hey, that was then, now is the time of The One."
  • 'Losing Respect' Commentary's Jennifer Rubin is livid at the news, writing that the snub sends a terrible signal to democratic movements: "America's willingness to bow and scrap before dictators and unwillingness to stand up for friends and ideological allies will lose the respect and affection of those whose opinion we should value -- without obtaining the respect of those who oppose us."
  • What Did the Lama Do to Deserve It? Focusing on the fate of Tibet's leader, bloggers condemn the Obama administration's shoddy welcome. "Now, to be fair, Obama can't make time for every two-bit exiled, tortured world leader that wanders into town. I mean, I doubt the Dalai Lama gave much if anything to Obama's election campaign. Priorities!" quips the Truth to Power blogger at Ink 19. Meanwhile, Red State's Moe Lane offers the following prediction of continued degradation: "Given the passive-aggressive nature of this administration, the next step will be to see whether enough people squawk at this; if they don't, they'll start making it 'difficult' for the Dalai Lama to visit the United States. And if he passes away, expect the USA to keep its mouth shut and let the PRC do... whatever the PRC plans to do about the religious leader's successor."
  • Actually, It's the Dalai Lama Who's Wrong One of the rare writers to come out endorsing Obama's decision is Foreign Policy's Wen Liao, who advises the Dalai Lama and his supporters to emulate Obama's realpolitik. "Antagonizing China's government over Tibet is no way to get it to act responsibly, whether on economic issues or on climate change," Liao lectures. He also lays out the complex ethnic and regional conflicts at play, sometimes overlooked by pro-Tibetan observers.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.