Public policy is about choosing priorities in the face of limited resources. That is the lesson Bjørn Lomborg and his Copenhagen Consensus try to make plain — a lesson rejected by the American Left, which likes to contend that focusing on one priority does not exclude others. But the Left’s own standard bearer, Barack Obama, has just proved the fallacy of that argument with his trip to China.
By its own actions, the administration has conceded the need to choose between the twin goals of climate change and human rights. Obama chose the former, diminishing the United States’ role as a beacon of liberty.
With the 192-nation Copenhagen conference on global warming looming, the White House had for months been laying the groundwork for a joint China/U.S. climate deal — while laying off liberals’ other longtime priority, religious freedom in Tibet. Even as Obama received the Nobel Prize in October, he shunned his fellow Nobel winner, the Dalai Lama, when he visited Washington. The president also ignored him on his China visit. In so doing, Obama de-emphasized brutality against Tibetans in order to focus on the phantom fears of climate change.
In return, Obama got . . . symbolism.
“The symbolism,” reported the New York Times, “of the world’s two largest polluters pledging no half measures to” . . . to do what? End torture in China’s infamous Tibetan “black jails?” Allow Chinese the right to freedom of association? Of religious freedom?
No. The U.S. and China pledged to rally “the world around a solution to our climate challenge,” said the president. Explained the Times: “With a civilization as ancient as China’s, (the administration) argued, it would be counterproductive — and reminiscent of President George W. Bush’s style — for Mr. Obama to confront Beijing with loud chest-beating that might alienate the Chinese.”
Heaven forbid a U.S. president raise his voice against injustice. So there you have it. President Bush thought torture was an imminent threat to those under the boot of Chinese communism. President Obama thinks it is rising sea levels.
Obama’s has made his priorities clear: polar bears over people.