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Obama meets Dalai Lama; Only one photo allowed; China still steamed; Democrat flies to Vegas party

February 19, 2010 | 12:44 am

Dalai Lama meets with Democrat president Barack Obama at the White House 2-18-10

One Dalai Lama. Two presidents. And two worlds of different body languages.

A U.S. presidential visit with Tibet's exiled spiritual leader has become commonplace -- if still sensitive. But George W. Bush felt so strongly about a public meeting to show support for democracy that he once went to the Capitol for a medal presentation to the Dalai Lama.

The sensitivity comes for fear of offending China which, as the Associated Press notes, now holds nearly $800 billion in U.S. federal debt. And for fear of reprisals in other areas by the rising Asian superpower. (Gee, what if China used lead in its paints?)

China sees the Dalai Lama as a separatist seeking to overthrow the sovereignty that China imposed militarily in 1950. Well, no one said it had to make sense. The Dalai Lama fled in 1959 after a failed revolt and lives in India now.

Presidential visits are handled differently by each president. George H.W. Bush, who once lived in Beijing as the U.S. representative, allowed no photos. Bill Clinton arranged to run into the Dalai Lama elsewhere.

Thursday's White House not-so-transparent get-together was carefully low-key -- no official welcome, no media allowed to witness or even visit the visit. The two men met in the Map Room, which is seen by some sage soothsayers as symbolically less prestigious than the Oval Office. Only a single White House photo was released (See above).

After their 70-minute confab, Obama left the White House to return to political fundraising -- in Colorado and -- wait for it -- Las Vegas. No, really.

Robert Gibbs, the press secretary, was anxious to avoid annoying the Chinese. He issued a statement that said:

The President stated his strong support for the preservation of Tibet’s unique religious, cultural and linguistic identity and the protection of human rights for Tibetans in the People’s Republic of China. The President commended the Dalai Lama’s...commitment to nonviolence and his pursuit of dialogue with the Chinese government.

The President stressed that he has consistently encouraged both sides to engage in direct dialogue to resolve differences and was pleased to hear about the recent resumption of talks. The President and the Dalai Lama agreed on the importance of a positive and cooperative relationship between the United States and China.

The diplomatic doo-dah dance didn't work.

China's government still summoned U.S. Amb. Jon Huntsman to file a protest over the visit.

In related news, it cost $30,000 -- each -- to attend Obama's Vegas fundraiser Thursday night, which works out to about $500 per minute to be in his presence.

Obama's. Not the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama meets with Republican president George W Bush 2007 in the White House

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Pete Souza / White House; Getty Images.

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