More Chens Than a Chinese Phonebook

Domestic policy can only defeat us; foreign policy can kill us. – John F. Kennedy

Obama’s “Smart Power!” Foreign Policy is looking like anything but smart in his handling of the case of a blind gentleman from China who wants to defect to America.

The Chinese dissident at the center of a political firestorm called a hearing Thursday and told lawmakers he wants to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng called a hearing set up to explore his efforts to leave China and escape persecution—apparently from a Chinese hospital room.

“I want to meet with Secretary Clinton,” he said on the phone. “I hope I can get more help from her. I also want to thank her face to face.”

Chen added that he is most concerned with his family, and said, “I really want to know what’s going on with them.”

“I want to thank all of you for your care and your love,” he added, through a translation by Pastor Bob Fu, Founder and President, ChinaAid Association. Fu was a witness at Thursday’s hearing of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.

Chen is at the center of a diplomatic row between the U.S. and China that has become a political liability for President Obama.

Chen was under house arrest for several months for protesting China’s one-child policy, but escaped to the U.S. Embassy, where he stayed for several days.

The U.S. and China appeared to reach a deal Wednesday that allowed Chen to remain in China, where he said he wished to stay.

But after Chen was released to a Chinese hospital to have his injuries treated, the dissident said he did not want to stay in China and requested political asylum in the U.S.

Administration officials insisted they did not pressure Chen to stay in China and that he decided on his own initially that he wanted to remain in his country.

But the about-face has led to criticism from Republicans that U.S. officials never should have allowed him to leave the U.S. embassy.

Speaking of the Republicans, the unofficial/official Republican Nominee for President was not shy about voicing his opinion concerning this fiasco:

Mitt Romney condemned the Obama administration’s handling of blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, calling the episode “a dark day for freedom” and “a day of shame” for President Obama if, he couched, reports are true that American officials communicated threats to Chen’s family.

At the same time Romney was speaking about the Chen story, about which there are conflicting reports, CNN was reporting that Chen told the network that he blamed a “misunderstanding” with the U.S. government for impressions that the Americans abandoned him and expressed “deep gratitude” to American officials.

Several times on Thursday, Romney couched his comments with disclaimers like “if the reports are true,” but the takeaway was clearly intended that the incident is a black eye for President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

“Just in the last day or two we’ve heard some disturbing things from across the world that suggest that, potentially, if the reports are true, some very troubling developments there,” Romney said. “Where an individual, Mr. Chen, has sought freedom in a bastion of freedom, an embassy of the United States of America. Aren’t we proud of the fact that people seeking freedom come to our embassy to find it?”

Romney continued: “The reports are, if they’re accurate, our administration willingly or unwittingly communicated to Chen an implicit threat to his family. And also probably sped up, or may have sped up, the process of his decision to leave the embassy because they wanted to move on to a series of discussions that Mr. Geithner and our secretary of state are planning on having with China.”

The likely GOP presidential nominee added: “It’s also apparent, according to these reports, if they’re accurate, that our embassy failed to put in place the kind of verifiable measures that would assure the safety of Mr. Chen and his family. If the reports are true, this is a dark day for freedom and it’s a day of shame for the Obama administration. We are a place of freedom, here and around the world and we should stand up and defend freedom wherever it is under attack.”

But, according to the Twitter feed of CNN executive producer Ram Ramgopal, Chen offered praise to the Americans who helped him.

“Chen Guangcheng speaks to CNN; says he believes U.S. will help him, expresses “deep gratitude” to American officials in Beijing,” Ramgopal wrote. “Chen also blames a ‘misunderstanding’ for the impression that the U.S. govt. abandoned him in the hospital.”

Romney, who has made a get-tough attitude toward China a central part of his foreign policy, on Sunday released a statement professing concern for Chen’s treatment, but had not previously spoken about the case from the stump.

Good for Mitt.  Well done.

On the subject of freedom, the greatest president in my lifetime, Ronald Wilson Reagan,  said:

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.

In 1974, in a speech titled, “The Shining City Upon a Hill”, Reagan said:

Standing on the tiny deck of the Arabella in 1630 off the Massachusetts coast, John Winthrop said, “We will be as a city upon a hill.The eyes of all people are upon us, so that if we deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword throughout the world.”

Everyone’s watching, Mr. President.  It’s your move.

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