Obama joins Clinton on Boycott!
by fairleft, Thu Apr 10, 2008 at 08:39:37 AM EDT
The torch relay protests and his colleagues in Congress and who knows what else (but definitely NOT the do-nothing 'in the tank for Obama' pseudo-lefty blogosphere) has worked on Obama, and he got right on the "boycott the opening ceremonies" issue late yesterday:
Obama Joins Clinton in Calling for Bush to Boycott Olympics' Opening Ceremonies
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Barack Obama joined Hillary Clinton Wednesday in calling on President Bush to boycott the opening ceremonies of the Olympics in Beijing if human rights conditions do not improve. . . .
Earlier Wednesday, Obama spokesman Bill Burton told FOX News Obama disagreed with Clinton's call for a Bush boycott, arguing it deprived the president of using that threat as leverage in private discussions with the Chinese on repression in Tibet and support of the Sudanese government.
Obama said Monday he is "deeply disturbed by the recent events in Tibet," but at the time did not call on Bush to boycott the games.
"The Chinese government must take immediate steps to respect the dignity, security, human rights and religious freedom of the Tibetan people, to provide foreign press and diplomats with access to the region and to finally work with the Dalai Lama toward meaningful autonomy for Tibet. If they do not, there should be consequences," he said.
If the Chinese do not take steps to help stop the genocide in Darfur and to respect the dignity, security, and human rights of the Tibetan people, then the President should boycott the opening ceremonies. As I have communicated in public and to the President, it is past time for China to respect the human rights of the Tibetan people, to allow foreign journalists and diplomats access to the region, and to engage the Dalai Lama in meaningful talks about the future of Tibet. I am also deeply concerned about China's failure to support efforts to halt the genocide in Darfur. Regarding the Beijing Olympics this summer, a boycott of the opening ceremonies should be firmly on the table, but this decision should be made closer to the Games.
This is the same as Clinton:
Statement by Hillary Clinton on Olympics
. . . At this time, and in light of recent events, I believe President Bush should not plan on attending the opening ceremonies in Beijing, absent major changes by the Chinese government.
I encourage the Chinese to take advantage of this moment as an opportunity to live up to universal human aspirations of respect for human rights and unity, ideals that the Olympic games have come to represent. . . .
Which makes headlines like the following wrong:
Clinton, Obama split on Olympics
Posted April 10, 2008 8:00 AM
by Christi Parsons
LEVITTOWN, Pa.--Hillary Clinton says President Bush should boycott the opening ceremonies of the Olympics in Beijing, but Barack Obama thinks Bush should wait and make the decision closer to the time of the games.
By the way, there's a groundswell of Democratic legislators coming out in favor of "boycotting the opening ceremonies unless":
Thursday April 10, 2008
Byrd joins Hillary Clinton in urging for boycott of Olympics in China
U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., along with Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, is calling on President Bush to boycott the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
Sens. Byrd, Clinton, D-N.Y., and Robert Menendez, D-N.J. wrote a letter to Bush suggesting that his presence at the opening ceremonies would show tolerance for human rights violations and disrespect for the spirit of the Olympics. . . .
"The Chinese government was awarded the Games on the understanding that it would work to significantly improve its human rights record," they wrote. "Clearly, it has not. In fact, its actions are completely contradictory to the Olympic spirit."
The senators added, "If the Chinese government is ever to treat its people with basic human rights, it must be sent a bold and clear message that its record of violence and suppression is completely unacceptable. Few actions can speak louder than if the president of the United States were to condemn the Chinese human rights record with the entire world watching. Refusing to attend the opening ceremonies would accomplish that."
In the letter, they also noted that Buddhist monks and ethnic Tibetans were brutally punished and killed for participating in protests in Tibet. They also referenced the Chinese government's continued unwillingness to bring an end to the genocide in Darfur because of its unique leverage with the Sudanese regime.
And the torch protests and political push may be working on Bush:
Bush Presence at Olympic Gala Uncertain
By FOSTER KLUG - 2 hours ago
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush has said he plans to attend the Beijing Olympics, but the White House has not ruled out the possibility that he may miss the opening ceremony, which China hopes to use as an international showcase.
Critics of China say that Bush avoiding the event would be a powerful sign of international anger over China's violent response to demonstrating Buddhist monks in Tibet. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's spokeswoman said Wednesday that Brown will not attend the opening ceremony.
Over two days, White House press secretary Dana Perino has faced questions about Bush's attendance at the opening gala for games that China hopes to use to make a statement about its rising economic and political power. She says Bush will go to the Olympics. . . .
Meanwhile, the House passed a resolution criticizing China for its crackdown on protesters in Tibet and urging Beijing to hold direct talks with the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan religious leader, on the future of the region.
The resolution also demanded that China release Tibetans imprisoned for participating in peaceful demonstrations and allow international monitors and journalists unfettered access to the Tibet Autonomous Region and other Tibetan areas of China. It passed 413 to 1.
[If China were to make most of the relatively easy concessions in the House resolution, I think the implication is that the boycott would be called off.]
The Senate later unanimously approved a similar resolution introduced by Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Gordon Smith, R-Ore. . . .
Meanwhile, Sen. Barack Obama on Wednesday joined Clinton in calling for Bush to boycott the opening ceremonies for the Olympic Games in Beijing. Clinton had commended [Britain's Prime Minister] Brown for announcing that he will skip the August ceremonies in China's capital, and called on Obama and likely Republican presidential nominee John McCain to join her in urging Bush to do the same.
Obama did later in the day; his campaign issued a statement in which, for the first time, he urged Bush to boycott the festivities.
By the way, Clinton apparently was under the wrong impression, as Gordon Brown had already told the Chinese back in March that he'd only be attending the closing ceremonies. He's not on the boycott team.
Final by the way: Obama shows basic misunderstanding of the relationship between China and the U.S. with this remark: "It's very hard to tell your banker that he's wrong." The U.S. is an essential market for China's products, while China is an `essential' banker for U.S. debt. In such a stalemate a President has a lot of freedom to act, judiciously, and Obama needs to learn that. Obama made the remark a couple hours before his team finally issued their "boycott if" statement, so maybe he did reconsider those remarks' naivete, and I don't wanna jump on that kind of 'gotcha' b.s. (Though I do hear echoes of a common Obama refrain of (neoliberal, fatalistic) "nothing can be done"-ishness.) More on exactly what he said, in context, here:
April 9, 2008, 3:19 PM
Obama: "It's Hard to Tell Your Banker That He's Wrong"
Posted by Maria Gavrilovic
MALVERN, PA. -- Barack Obama today said the Bush Administration does not have leverage to pressure China on human rights abuses in Tibet because of the flawed economic ties between the two countries.
"It's very hard to tell your banker that he's wrong, all right?," Obama told voters here. "And if we are running huge deficits and big national debts and we're borrowing money constantly from China, that gives us less leverage. It gives us less leverage to talk about human rights."