Via the Examiner, if it were anyone else I’d say this is a simple case of a pol from party A putting the screws to a president from party B over a difficult international incident, but with Mitt I’m not sure. He’s been confrontational towards China throughout the campaign. Whether that’s because he sincerely believes confrontation is the way to go to contain Chinese ambitions or because he thinks standing up to the commies (and the post-commies in Moscow) will give him a little Reagan-esque credibility with the base, I don’t know. I’m not knocking him for hitting O on this — any nominee would — but I find it hard to believe he’d have done anything starkly different than what The One did. A president’s not going to let one gutsy dissident jeopardize his entire foreign policy on Asia.

Speaking of the gutsy dissident, here’s what he said early this morning:

Q: If you knew everything you know now, would you have left the U.S. Embassy?

I don’t think I would have.

Q: Do you feel that U.S. officials put pressure on you to leave the embassy as early as possible in order that today’s talks should be a success?

I think that was a factor.

And here’s a more hopeful-sounding Chen this afternoon:

“I hope the Sino-US agreement can be implemented,” he said. “I am not disappointed in the US government. They made such a great effort. I am very grateful. It was under their great efforts that I got this important agreement.”…

Some media reports have suggested he was unsatisfied with the deal. Chen called it a “breakthrough” in his conversation with USA TODAY.

“The Chinese government has promised to guarantee my civil liberties. Is this not a breakthrough? But its implementation is very important. It must be fully implemented and this has not happened yet,” he said.

What happened in the interim to brighten his mood? No way to know for sure, but he told the Daily Beast that a U.S. official had come to the hospital this morning to try to see him (and had been refused). Knowing that the State Department hasn’t abandoned him entirely means he can rest easy that Chinese goons won’t drag him and his wife into a back alley and beat them to death — yet. As his lawyer said, with dark understatement, “The Chinese government has made many promises on many things, but they never keep their promises.” (In that case, why did Chen believe that they’d uphold their end of the deal with the U.S. to let him attend law school?)

Hillary’s playing this close to the vest so far in her official remarks, presumably in order not to further inflame the situation, but she and O are now in a nasty bind. Chen insists that the only way he’ll be safe is if he’s given asylum in the U.S.; the ChiComs, I assume, will refuse that categorically for fear of losing face. What would Mitt Romney do? As further reading on this, check out the NYT’s account of how this guy, blind and injured during his escape, somehow made it to the U.S. embassy. He didn’t show up at the gate begging to be let in, as I think most people assume. The State Department was contacted by his allies after he escaped and the U.S. sent a car to pick him up. Allegedly they were tailed by Chinese security and a full-fledged car chase ensued on the way back to the embassy. All of which is to say, the U.S. was a more willing participant in guaranteeing his safety than might at first appear, which is to O’s credit but also makes this standoff even more tense. Stay tuned. Exit question: Does the State Department now regret its initial decision to help? From the Daily Beast:

Fu had spoken by phone with Chen shortly before I had. “He was very heavyhearted,” Fu said. “He was crying when we spoke. He said he was under enormous pressure to leave the embassy. Some people almost made him feel he was being a huge burden to the U.S.” Chen decided to leave, Fu confirmed, because he was told “he would have no chance of reunification with his wife and children if he didn’t. The choice presented to him was walk out—or stay inside and lose his wife and kids. Chen had no choice but to go.”

Update: High drama: Apparently Chen himself called into today’s emergency committee hearing on Capitol Hill about his fate.