President Bush is an easy target, what with all his goof-ups and inarticulateness, but every now and then
he gets something right and deserves some praise. Such was the case when he presented the Congressional Gold Medal, America’s highest civilian honor, to the Dalai Lama, causing much hand-wringing in China.
The event marked the first time a U.S. president has appeared in public with the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, who from his first White House visit two decades ago has agreed to private presidential meetings, in deference to China.
"An era that has seen an unprecedented number of nations embrace
individual freedom has also witnessed the stubborn endurance of
religious repression. Americans cannot look to the plight of the
religiously oppressed and close our eyes or turn away," Bush said
before a shoulder-to-shoulder sea of dark-clad politicians punctuated
by the bright saffron and maroon robes of Tibetan Buddhist monks.
Seated behind him on the dais, the Dalai Lama smiled, nodding. [Link]
It’s nice to see Bush standing up for the Buddhists, even if it’s sort of like Microsoft standing up for Netscape.
The situation is particularly personal for Chinese President Hu Jintao,
an avowed friend of the United States who earlier in his career was
involved in the Tibet crackdown. Bush told Hu, who will be acclaimed
for a second five-year term at the Communist Party congress, of his
plan to attend the medal ceremony last month, while the two leaders
attended an Asian economic summit in Australia.
"They didn’t like it, of course, but I don’t think it’s going to damage
— severely damage — relations. . . . I don’t think it ever damages
relations when the American president talks about religious tolerance
and religious freedom," Bush told reporters before yesterday’s
Asked if he understood the Chinese president’s views on Tibet, Bush gave a diplomatic answer: "All I know is this: Hu cares. Hu gives a damn."
Photo credit: Ferne Millen