Saturday, March 15, 2008

Clinton Campaign Ducks a Simple Question About Tibet

Today the Clinton campaign took advantage of the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day holiday to hold a press call discussing Hillary Clinton’s disputed role in the nearly decade-old Northern Ireland peace talks and her intention to work to “bring peace to different parts of the world.”

During the Q&A following that call, however, Clinton’s National Security Advisor, Lee Feinstein, ducked my question about the Bush Administration’s decision last week to remove China from its list of human rights violators – a decision made right in the middle of escalating tensions in Tibet that have culminated in riots in Lhasa, a military crackdown on protests and media nationwide, and according to some reports, upwards of 100 deaths.

I asked Feinstein a simple, direct question: whether, in light of events in Tibet, Mrs. Clinton would call on the Bush Administration to re-list China as a human rights violator. He didn’t answer the question, referring instead to a statement Clinton issued on the events in Tibet and saying that she has a long history on the issue and has talked with the Dalai Lama in the past.

I asked again, directly, whether in addition to whatever she says in that statement, Clinton would call to restore China’s name to the Administration’s list of human rights violators; Feinstein answered that he had nothing to add to Clinton’s prepared statement (which, incidentally, hasn’t been issued to the press yet and which isn’t in any obvious place on her campaign website).

Three facts may factor into her waffling:

1. Biographical note: Clinton formerly served on the Board of Directors of Wal-Mart, the largest U.S. importer of goods from China.

2. Calendar note: this summer, China will host the Olympics in Beijing.

3. Economic note: the Chinese government is a significant creditor of the U.S., effectively financing our ongoing deficit spending (including the war in Iraq) by purchasing U.S. government securities – and it could destabilize our economy simply by ceasing to purchase those securities.

So it’s a complicated issue, calling for nuance – but while Mrs. Clinton boasts about disputable and decade-old foreign policy accomplishments during her husband’s administration, why does her campaign lack the courage to take a direct and meaningful stand for human rights when they are being abused today, right now, as you read this? Is her "3 a.m." foreign policy expertise limited to events in the past (a questionable role in Northern Ireland, a speech she gave in China a decade ago) and about words (in a statement that apparently hasn’t even been issued yet) or is she willing to take a principled, effective stand on a religious and human rights conflict that’s actually happening today?

More simply: is Hillary Clinton only committed to talking about human rights in the past tense, or does she actually have a vision and a commitment that extends to the present -- and the future?

More on events on Tibet -- and contact information for China's embassy, consulates and Olympic organizers, so you can voice your concerns -- can be found here at VichyDems.

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