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Obama Postpones (Avoids?) Meeting With Dalai Lama: Change We No Longer Believe In?

dalai-lama-obama.jpgby Ethan Nichtern

According to the Washington Post, President Obama has postponed meeting with His Holiness the Dalai Lama until after a summit with Chinese Leader Hu Jintao. The Post claims this is an attempt to avoid ruffling feathers and to strengthen ties with the Chinese. Of course, I understand the move diplomatically. Pride and appearances are huge in diplomatic relations, especially with the Chinese. But what about standing up for truth, fairness, justice, interdependence?


Meanwhile, perhaps the coolest (and oldest?) reporter in America, Helen Thomas, gave press secretary Robert Gibbs an earful about the Obama administration’s failure to forcefully and unequivocally stand tall and supporting the public option on health care reform (it’s a great video clip to watch).

Leadership is about diplomacy, and listening to opposing perspectives,
for sure. No one interested in mindfulness and interdependence would
dispute that. However, those qualities come into play after you
stand tall for values – values like fairness, justice, compassion, and
interdependence. If you don’t stand tall and firm –uncompromising– on
those values, you have no real strength when it comes time to
negotiate, or to listen to opposition voices. Relatedly, on the issue of bipartisanship, I
often ask myself this question these days: “What’s the point of working
on issues of representative government with the current Republican
minority, when that group keeps clearly and loudly stating that it dislikes the very idea of representative government?”

Has Obama lost your support at all? Did he have it to begin with? Just wondering.

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posted October 5, 2009 at 11:30 am

This is an old story.
Reported on by Rediff News on Sept 16
as well as by other news and wire sources almost three weeks ago.

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Your Name

posted October 5, 2009 at 11:33 am

Well it’s all over the news today, probably why

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posted October 5, 2009 at 11:42 am

Yes, all over the news because the WAPO missed the story by three weeks.
Old newsprint is best used to wrap dead fish.

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Ethan Nichtern

posted October 5, 2009 at 11:46 am

Thanks Scoob, I actually saw that article. It’s still very worthy material to start a conversation about our values and priorities, however.

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Brian Smith

posted October 5, 2009 at 12:18 pm

Obama has not lost my support. I’m finding those on the left tend to be so ideological that they forget about practicalities. Obama is a liberal at heart. But, he’s also a pragmatist. You have to know how to get things done.
I think Obama is in a learning phase. He’s a bit of a idealist. I think he believed that if something was obviously good for the country, the Republicans would actually go along. They’re proving him wrong. I think you’ll see him come out swinging and very soon.

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posted October 5, 2009 at 12:41 pm

It’s always fun to philosophize about issues, but when you owe $800 billion to someone, you tend to avoid pissing off that certain someone at all costs.

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posted October 5, 2009 at 1:03 pm

I agree with Brian & Chris – this is geopolitics. It’s difficult to translate personal morality on to such a large issue with so many variables.
It’ certainly seems cowardly, but the Chinese are very big on symbolic gestures and Obama showing them deference by bumping his meeting with DL probably buys him more capital with Beijing without compromising his actual policy towards Tibet. In other words: talk nice to the holders of all our Treasury debt while quietly engaging in meaningful Tibet policy.

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posted October 5, 2009 at 2:04 pm

in the same vein, also check out this very eloquent and passionate call by Michael Moore. see “Michael Moore’s Message to Barack Obama & Blue Dog Democrats”

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posted October 5, 2009 at 2:24 pm

I would agree with Stillman: “talk nice to the holders of all our Treasury debt while quietly engaging in meaningful Tibet policy.”
However, I think the amount of US Treasury debt that China owns debilitates the U.S.A. considerably. China knows we are “talking nice,” knows why, and knows what they can make us do.
HI think it’s pretty much impossible for us to engage in “meaningful Tibet policy,” if by “meaningful” we mean substantially shifting the China’s very clear current policy toward Tibet.
China owns our debt. And they are powerful thru their influence in both North Korea and Sudan. Any policy that aims to address Tibetan nationalism, nuclear proliferation, or Darfur genocide — all valid international arenas for moral and ethical issues to come powerfully into play — and does not take into account the actual might of China at this moment, is delusional.
Perhaps the best that can be said about Obama here is that at least he is not delusional.

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posted October 5, 2009 at 10:17 pm

stillman, ellen right on. however i found this interesting point below in a cbs article, which if true, makes this even more sad. also…what has changed, bush met with the dalai lama (although now we might have to look at the sequencing of meetings..did bush meet with the chinese first too)..does it really matter?
Chinese delegations began contacting American academics and others close to the Tibetan movement in an effort to gauge whether Obama would have the meeting, said people who met with the Chinese. Ironically, according to participants in these talks, the Chinese had come to the conclusion that Obama was going to meet with the Dalai Lama in October and that the only issue was how the Tibetan leader would be received in the White House.
“We’ve got the classic case of a Western government yet again conceding to Chinese pressure that is imaginary long after that Chinese pressure has ceased to exist,” said Robert Barnett, a Tibetan expert at Columbia University. “The Chinese must be falling over themselves with astonishment at what Western diplomats will give them without being asked. I don’t know what the poker analogy would be. ‘Please, see all my cards and take my money, too?’ ”

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posted October 5, 2009 at 10:55 pm

Obama never had my support to lose it. I do find it sad to see so many of his worshippers waking up slowly to the reality that our president campaigned on blatant lies that anyone with any knowledge of world affairs would know could not be undertaken in the absurd timeframes he promised. Obama states he can multi-task, yet has only proven that multi-tasking does you no good if you fail at each task. At this point, the only attribute I find agreeable in our president is his inefficiency at “changing” our society to his supposed world-view. I say supposed because he has proven himself so vain, that I fear he really may not even have ever believed one bit of his own rhetoric….it was all just a means to an end. BTW, I’m not being pessimistic, I’m being real.

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posted October 6, 2009 at 10:40 am

This sounds similar to a betrayal brought upon by 30 pieces of silver.

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posted October 6, 2009 at 2:56 pm

I wonder when an analogous QUANTUM OF INDIGNATION will come forward in the case of Puerto Rico, which is the oldest colony in the world, militarily occupied for over 100 years by the US government, and systematically blocked from exerting its right to freedom. At this moment there are several political prisoners (yes, there are still political prisoners in many countries including your own, who are not terrorists) who have served long sentences for the rightful actions to free our homeland. If the Tibet is entitled to freedom, why not US, TOO!

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posted October 6, 2009 at 3:23 pm

As long as it is just a question of timing rather than meeting or not meeting, I don’t think its a big deal.

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Jerry Kolber

posted October 6, 2009 at 3:57 pm

Ethan it’s a good question – why is the president equivocating on an issue that was at the core of his campaign and that is good for the country and the people of the country? Health care reform seems like a slam dunk issue and it says something pretty interesting about the Republican party that, as an organization, they want to do business as usual.

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posted October 6, 2009 at 4:52 pm

Manuel, what are you advocating, exactly?

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posted October 6, 2009 at 5:05 pm

I am very disappointed in Barack Obama. On universal healthcare, getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan, failing to regulate Wall Street, bailing out big business while failing to protect people who lose their jobs from being foreclosed out of their homes, and a whole host of other subjects, he has demonstrated that while he talks like a liberal idealist who stands for compassionate prinicples, he is actually conservative, and one who is afraid of his own shadow, at that. At the first whiff of opposition, he is ready to abandon his principles to appease his opponants. He does not seem to realize that it takes two to tango; you cannot be postpartisan if your opponants are determined to destroy your administration no matter what you do. He is getting his lunch eaten by conservatives and the poor and working people in this country are suffering for it.

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posted October 6, 2009 at 5:17 pm

President Obama is caught between the right wing which will never concede an issue and the newly invigorated left who now feel that every issue must become a battle to be fought. The Dali Lama has the ability to travel and meet people at times that can be arranged, re-arranged, and some times he can do a drop in because he’s in the neighborhood. The government of mainland China on the other hand schedules it’s meetings in ink and attempts to control the agenda. Those of us on this site know Mr. Obama will support the Dali Lama in all his endeavors, as stated in other posts, geopolitical issues take precedence this time. We do not live in a simple solution world. We have complex problems which requires finesse to solve. SO…give the guy some credit, he got handed a war to clean up, an economy in the crapper, and a new strain of flu that the bio-chem community is just hoping to get a windfall from(hey I need some paranoia).

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Anan E. Maus

posted October 6, 2009 at 5:27 pm

If we like someone, politically, we will tend to find a reason to agree with them. If we don’t like someone politically, we will tend to find a reason to disagree with them. Similarly, we find fault or praise in various actions of people we like or dislike.
To honestly assess someone’s actions without bias, one way or the other, is not so easy a thing to do. To really do so, one must apply the kind of standards that, say, a professional historian will use when writing a professional paper.
Any method of inquiry that lacks that kind of depth and attention to detail is most likely not going to discover any truth of real depth.
In the world of global politics, a relationship with China is a very important thing in order to maintain world peace. The present worst case scenario is for China and the US to really become at great odds with each other…and we revert to the kind of cold war atmosphere that existed between the US and the old Soviet Union.
I don’t think anyone wants to see that happen again. If you are in charge of US foreign policy, you simply can’t avoid dealing with that issue. And I think any President would be hard pressed to advocate fully for all the issues, on all the sides of the problem. Taiwan has an issue which is opposed to China. Tibet has its serious problems with China. There are trade issues and pollution issue and human rights issues and on and on and on. And the one thing I can say with high confidence, is that managing that entire “equation” can not be easy. And I don’t see that it is always possible to properly advocate and respect every single party in that huge mix.
I don’t honestly know what is the best course of action for Obama to take, I just sense that it is a deeply complex issue.
Folks seem to quit quickly forget, a major diplomatic victory recently…when former President Clinton, successfully brought out two journalists from North Korea. I can’t imagine that issues around China were not also part of that incredibly tense situation. So, again, I think it is very hard to assess what is going on. The positive resolution of the North Korea situation should have been seen as a huge diplomatic victory for stability and peace. But, I guess the only news that sells is failure and catastrophe.
I don’t think taking potshots at a public figure over specific issues, while failing to assess their place in the grand scheme, is a fair assessment.

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Sister Sheba

posted October 6, 2009 at 8:10 pm

I tend to agree with Anan’s analysis. There is so much hateful rhetoric against Obama it’s hard to tell a reasonable objection from a racially inspired ( yes, even self-hatred qualifies after centuries of slavery) rant. Besides, isn’t it a little oxymoronic to hold any politician, even Jimmy Carter, to the standards of a Bodhisattva?

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Ethan Nichtern

posted October 6, 2009 at 9:41 pm

@Anan and Sister Sheba: I agree, and continue to be an Obama supporter. What he has to deal with is immense on many perceptual fronts. I am just sometimes disappointed by the failure of progressives – those of us who truly believe in interdependence – the failure to stand tall and unbending for what is right.
Of course we should have Universal health care. Every other advanced country has it!
Of course Obama should meet with the Dalai Lama.
Why can’t we just come out and say that what is right is right?
I know the counter-arguments, I just wish progressives would be unwavering like Dick Cheney sometimes, you know?

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posted October 7, 2009 at 7:20 am

@ Ethan, Dick Cheney is unwavering because it benefits him greatly not because the cause that he stands for moves his heart.
This is the same for progressives and perhaps the same for you. Most people don’t risk a thing, They do what is in their immediate best interest.
How many leaders out there in the world are working to make things better yet have no greater voice for us to hear. What of the women in the Middle East,the people of Africa or the tribes in South America. Why don’t you write about them?
Because they are not of immediate interest to you.
What would you do should you see someone being assaulted in the street? Do you stand up for what is right? Do stop the person who is about harm another? Would you risk your life? Would you risk all that you worked for in the past 5 years? Would you risk your relationship? What would risk in order to make something wrong, right?
Most if not all people just stand and witness and call 911. Once in awhile someone will stand up and stop it. Usually its an old person who’s no longer afraid dying or someone other people call crazy. Every once in a blue moon someone does take a stand. They risk everything and in that small so called insignificant moment they open a window of change for the criminal and the victim.
But you see there are no marks of success for that. No recognition, no blogs…nothing to gain.
And what is so awful is that the criminal knows this. This is why he does it without too much concern in the light of day. He knows that no one will come and say or do what is right. It is very rare for someone to do so.

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posted October 7, 2009 at 1:56 pm

Obama must stand up to friends and the American citizen, while kowtowing to enemies and China. He probably thinks no better of the Lama than of a llama, the latter of which the former respects more than he is respected by Obama. Ah, Lama … Obama, they acoustically rhyme, but not spiritually.

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posted October 8, 2009 at 3:03 pm

As difficult as it is to be a qualitative leader, Mr. Obama seeks peace in conflict resolution. It is certainly not a new revelation to know you can’t please all the people all of the time. It is my belief that if more energy were used to support change, the concept of the President’s theme during his campaign, as well as Americans who used a democratic system to elect him, we could probably perceive things differently altogether. As a whole, possiblities are continually diminished by thinking small and maintaining the same beliefs. The unrealistic notion that Mr. Obama is some sort of magician with a wand and can make an ultimate difference by changing everything in less than a year’s time is ridiculous. One of the important aspects emphasized by Mr. Obama during his campaign was that everyone will be responsible in making change happen, that he is not going to even mislead anyone by allowing them to avoid self-responsibility in making a contribution that would lead towards these changes (big or small). The finger pointing as the saying goes, is only redirected towards whomever is choosing to do so. We are a Nation who is impacted by all of the societal ills. Whatever the challenge is, not just one person is affected, we are all affected. Let us stop this dissection and continuing to hold up banners crying foul by only that which we have a personal interest in.

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posted October 8, 2009 at 11:21 pm

To all you blessed ones, suffering in delusion, who feel bad that Obama has postponed meeting w/HHDalai Lama, consider this: The great nation of China, a civilization existing continuously for 3500+ years, ruled by Communists for less than a good lifetime, whose population approaches 1.5 Billion people, now, stops, moves, and carefully considers the actions of *ONE MAN* – Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet…long after the “chi-coms” have been forgotten on history’s scrap-heap, we shall still enjoy the 3 Jewels…

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Earl Dunbar

posted October 9, 2009 at 1:28 pm

Do we have any statement directly from Obama on this? IOW, do we really know his reasoning? I find it curious that so many Buddhists (or at least those who read a Buddhist blog!) are so judgmental, one way or another.

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Your Name

posted October 9, 2009 at 5:06 pm

Listen, folks, second-guessing Obama’s intentions is a waste of time. The man is operating on the big stage with foreign leaders in a diplomatic way that most of the people reponding to this blog have no experience with. We can make assumptions that he has abandoned his moral principles, or we can continue to see what actions he pursues over time. Certainly no harm has been done by not meeting with His Holiness the Dalai Lama this month. In case you haven’t noticed, the Dalai Lama has infinite patience! He is not a petulant man who is easily offended. Obama and The Dalai Lama HAVE had conversations- witness the photo of the two together. The Chinese have occupied Tibet for decades- Obama is not going to change that situation his first year in office, folks. In case you haven’t noticed, there are many competing urgent needs on his plate. He has a war in Iraq and another in Afghanistan that he is responsible to handle. Good things take time, Rome wasn’t built in a day, sometimes going slow works faster in the long run. If you respect HH the Dalai Lama, you respect this understanding.
I haven’t written Obama off so quickly.

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posted December 25, 2009 at 8:06 pm

Obama is just a puppet. He has no mind of his own and makes decisions based on what his puppet master tells him. He’s just amnother Hollywood fashion trend that’s going out of style

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