Yesterday, Bush apologized to Chinese President Hu for Wang Wenyi’s heckling of him, but nothing says “I’m sorry” like a stiff jail term. Wang has been charged with “harassing, intimidating or threatening a foreign official,” for which she could be imprisoned for up to six months. And they may also go after her under local laws for disorderly conduct. I’m guessing she doesn’t get to call Hu as a witness to ask him if he felt harassed, intimidated or threatened. Chinese presidents are notoriously sensitive to such examples of lèse majesté: when protesters were actually allowed within the sight-lines of Jiang Zemin in Switzerland in 1999, he said the Swiss had “lost a good friend.” And yesterday Chinese foreign ministry officials cancelled a briefing session out of pique. On one thing the Chinese, Bush and the penal code all agree: it is the duty of government to keep its subjects quiet in the presence of foreign leaders.
The Bush administration embraced the arrogance of power with gusto. Its motto was “Never complain, never explain,” which morphed into “Never explain, frequently complain,” which morphed into “Always complain, pretend to explain.”