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Published: Friday, 10/9/2009

Ideals dashed

LAST year, candidate Barack Obama called on President George W. Bush to boycott the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics.

Outraged by Chinese brutality in Tibet and its ongoing support of the butchers in Darfur, Mr. Obama assured voters that, if elected, his foreign policy would reflect an unwavering regard for human rights. Those were strong words that encouraged the Dalai Lama, the exiled leader of Tibet.

During his decades in exile, the Dalai Lama has had 10 meetings with American presidents and has told the story of Tibet's struggle against Chinese tyranny to anyone who will listen.

This week, the Dalai Lama went to Washington to meet with congressional leaders of both parties. A meeting with President Obama was not on the agenda - a surprise to anyone who remembers how candidate Obama made the Olympics a debating point.

Because the United States needs China's cooperation to deal effectively with Iran and North Korea, the Obama Administration isn't eager to offend Beijing by meeting with a symbol of resistance against Chinese dominance.

Though it hasn't exactly thrown the Dalai Lama under the bus, the White House has decided it won't roll out the red carpet for the exiled spiritual leader until after Mr. Obama goes to China next month.

To his credit, the Dalai Lama isn't offended by the administration's decision to choose pragmatism over principle. He understands that politicians have to calculate their moves to achieve their goals.

Even so, Mr. Obama should have stuck to his ideals and met with the Tibetan leader now and let the Chinese show some understanding.

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