Rather than risk alienating China before a summit with Hu Jintao next month, Obama won't meet with the Dalai Lama when the Tibetan visits Washington this week. I can understand if Obama has judged that Chinese cooperation on Iran, the economy and global warming are more important than the Tibetan cause. What's striking is how few clues to this subordination of human rights--which he has also applied to Egypt--Obama offered as a candidate in 2007-2008.

On Tibet specifically, Obama did issue a forceful statement in March 2008 during a Chinese crackdown. But he declined to join Hillary Clinton's call for a U.S. boycott of the opening Olympic ceremonies in Beijing.

Not that Hillary herself has maintained such a hard line on China since joining Obama's team.