RANCHO SANTA FE, Calif., Jan. 17, 2011 – President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao will chow down (no pun intended) at a state dinner this week. This is a significant event on several levels, all of which merit the attention of the Common Sense Czar.
First: Who’s Hu? While the question might engender the thought of a reference publication that acknowledges individuals who have achieved some level of preeminent performance, it is really meant to delve into the background of Obama’s special guest. Like Obama, Hu is president of his country. Like Obama, his term is going to expire in 2012. Like Obama, he may find himself unemployed at the end of his term.
Next: Who merits a state dinner? Pardon me, I meant to say, Hu merits a state dinner … at least according to Obama. The reason this is such a big deal is that Hu has visited our country in the past. He dropped by the White House in 2006 while “W” was still in office. President Bush treated him to lunch. Strangely enough, for a president who was often accused of being insensitive to what was going on in the world, Bush refused to honor Hu with a state dinner because of China’s abysmal record with respect to human rights. Yet Obama, who is acclaimed for his sensitivity, has chosen to elevate Hu’s stature by granting him the honor of a state dinner.
To make the contrast even greater, Bush … perhaps flashing a perverse sense of Texas humor … had Korean food served for lunch (which is something that I might have done). I’m not sure if the entrée was presented in a north/south plating garnished with a swirl of 38 parallel lines of different sauces, but you have to appreciate the irony.
Conversely, Obama has commissioned a special chef to prepare the state dinner. Now, I would have thought that the White House chef would have been skilled enough to prepare the meal, particularly in these difficult economic times, but I suppose Obama has his reasons. Besides, it’s just taxpayer money. However, there is speculation that he is pushing the envelope of diplomacy in an attempt to secure more concessions from Hu. By paying more homage to Hu, Obama may be able to win him over. Who knows … or should I say, Hu knows what might happen if Obama “drops his pen” and appears to bow?
The state dinner is going to create another “first” for our country. Here’s a hint: It has nothing to do with the Salahis actually being invited to attend, even though there’s a rumor that Vice President Joe Biden said he’d like to sit next to Michaele. In reality, this will be the first time a president of the United States has ever honored a head of state who is currently holding a Nobel Peace prize winner in prison. In the past, this might have been considered to be an absolute scandal, but, in today’s world, it’s just business as usual (i.e., do whatever you have to do to seal the deal). Besides, Obama would probably be quick to point out that the Nobel Peace prize isn’t what it used to be.
So, for all of this “sucking up,” what can we expect to achieve? Here’s how the czar sees it all “playing out.”
For starters, Obama won’t have to fly to China to apologize for our country’s behavior. He’s making the president of China fly here. Secondly, the meeting will provide numerous opportunities for the presidents to pose together and act as if each cares what the other one thinks. Third: Obama will get to be “presidential.” He’ll pontificate about the importance of human rights. This must be done with great care to avoid coming across as arrogant. Otherwise, he’ll have to hop on Air Force One and fly somewhere to apologize for it.
All kidding aside: I do expect some concessions to be made with regard to human rights. While Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo won’t be a surprise guest at the state dinner, Hu will pretend that the human rights issue is important to his regime. He may even throw in a political prisoner or two (perhaps Xue Feng, the U.S. citizen who was convicted last year possibly just to be used for such a purpose). Think of it as Hu’s way of “getting the tip” for the state dinner.
Obama will also press for China to embrace greater civil liberties. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton alluded to such last week when she said, “America will continue to speak out and press China when it censors bloggers and imprisons activists, when religious believers, particularly those in unregistered groups, are denied full freedom of worship, when lawyers and legal advocates are sent to prison simply for representing clients who challenge the government’s positions.” In a magnanimous gesture, Obama will offer to introduce Hu to Wikileaks leader Julian Assange to help with the high-tech side of the equation.
The parties also will reach an accord that will further improve business relationships. We’ll lobby for the right to expand our corporate presence in China to capitalize upon its economic growth, and we will demand that our companies be allowed to compete on an equal basis. China will concede this request because of our superior diplomacy … and because they need U.S. companies to manufacture products in China that can be marked up and resold in the United States. This is critical for China since it needs an ever increasing supply of capital to loan back to the United States to prop up our economy … since all of our jobs are going overseas.
And finally … the United States will ask China for its support in bringing a lasting peace to the Korean region. After much debate, China will capitulate and offer to join in the Six-Party talks … you know, the ones that North Korea has been demanding. In the U.S., this will be positioned to look like a major coup on our part. In China, it will look like we got hoodwinked.
Who could ask for anything more? You certainly weren’t expecting “Change You Can Believe In” were you? In the end, the food at the State Dinner will be fabulous, the photo ops will flow like wine, Obama and Hu will toast each other on multiple occasions, and nothing will really be accomplished.
T.J. O’Hara is a political satirist, media personality and author of three new books: The Left isn’t Right, The Right is Wrong, and The National Platform of Common Sense. To order, go to http://tjohara.com/archives-2/books/.