W. the Exceptional

On our homepage now, there is an excellent piece by John Fund from Oslo — on the refusal of the Norwegian government to meet with the Dalai Lama. The reason, of course, is that the government is reluctant to offend the Chinese Communist Party.

And this is a Conservative-led government, mind you.

In situations like this, I immediately think of President Ford, who refused to meet with Solzhenitsyn. He took the advice of his secretary of state, Henry Kissinger. In the presidential debates of 1976, Jimmy Carter hammered Ford for his snubbing of Solzhenitsyn.

The CCP was mighty displeased when the Norwegian Nobel Committee gave the Dalai Lama its peace prize in 1989. A Chinese official in Oslo said, “It is interference in China’s internal affairs. It has hurt the Chinese people’s feelings.” Oh, did the CCP take a nationwide poll? (I detail all this in Peace, They Say, my history of the peace prize.)

An award to the Tibetan leader gave Chinese democracy activists something of a boost. The massacre in Tiananmen Square had taken place earlier in the year.

Not until 2010, however, did the Nobel committee get around to awarding a Chinese activist. That was more than 60 years after the Communists seized power in China. The award went to Liu Xiaobo, who was in prison, as he is even now.

In previous years, it was rumored that Wei Jingsheng or Wang Dan would win. The CCP always warned Norway that it had better not (even though the Nobel committee is independent from the government). (In China, basically nothing is independent from the government.)

After the award to Liu Xiaobo, a Norwegian journalist told me, “That award put a dent in my pension” — because Beijing had withdrawn investments from Norway.

But back to the Dalai Lama. He is about as tame a Tibetan leader as the CCP could hope for. He is always mouthing nice things about Mao, that genocidal monster. He likes to say that he is “half Buddhist, half Marxist” (or is it “half Marxist, half Buddhist”?). He insists that he seeks no independence for Tibet, just a degree of autonomy. But still, the CCP feels threatened.

I am at last getting to the main point of this blogpost. John points out, correctly, that U.S. presidents have always been shy about being seen with the Dalai Lama. They shuffle him out the back door and so on. But there is a big exception — and that exception, as so often, is George W. Bush.

In 2007, when Congress gave the Dalai Lama the Congressional Gold Medal, W. made sure to be there, in the Rotunda, next to the honoree. He gave a (typically) superb speech. He spoke of the “stubborn endurance of religious repression,” and said, “Americans cannot look to the plight of the religiously oppressed and close our eyes or turn away.”

To see this speech, go here. To see a news photo of Bush and the Dalai Lama, grinning together, go here. It’s a wonderful sight.

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