Chinese president: Hey, we're all about human rights

The key part comes at 2:30 but make sure to watch from the beginning or else you’ll miss Hu being called out by Bloomberg’s reporter for pathetically refusing to answer a question on human rights earlier in the press conference. Hu’s explanation: The earlier question was lost in translation, an excuse so feeble that even Obama can’t contain a smirk at its lameness.

As I write this, guests are arriving at the White House for tonight’s state dinner. Jay Nordlinger wonders how it came to this:

China, to remind you, is a country with a gulag (laogai). The Chinese government is a regime that imprisons and tortures some of the most admirable people in all the world: the human-rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, for one. What he has endured is unimaginable, not to mention unendurable, by most people. The 2010 Nobel peace laureate, Liu Xiaobo, sits in prison, while his wife is under house arrest…

The demands of “realpolitik” do not include a “lavish state banquet,” to borrow the AP’s words. George W. Bush did not bow to the Chinese Communists in this way. (Remember, Obama has literally bowed to the Chinese.) He gave them a lunch. Sino-American relations proceeded normally in his eight years.

Let me get a little corny on you: America is a nation that’s supposed to stand for something — for freedom, and human dignity, above all. We’re not supposed to be like every other nation. We’re supposed to be exceptional. Different. A beacon unto man.

I’m not a babe in the woods, and I understand the necessity of getting along in a wicked world. But we don’t have to abase ourselves as we are doing now. We should not be honoring the PRC boss. We should be honoring, and standing with, the men and women in the camps and the cells. Are we America? (Does this sort of talk make you gag?) What is America? What are we supposed to celebrate on the Fourth of July? Is it just an excuse for fireworks and a picnic?

Obama addressed the human rights question too and gave the politic answer — cultural differences, different stages of development, still we’re concerned, yadda yadda — rather than the honest answer, which is that their position has strengthened and ours has weakened to the point where we can’t afford to press the regime on the fact that they’re cretins. (For a more honest version of today’s encounter, see the second clip below.) Which may be so, but of course doesn’t answer Nordlinger’s objection to showering them with the pomp and circumstance of a state dinner — the theme of which, if you can believe it, is “quintessentially American.” Exit question: Will an empty chair be left for Liu Xiaobo on this quintessentially American occasion? Based on what Tapper’s been tweeting today, I assume not.