Elian Chen-zales

Politico does a good job explaining and closing the politics of the Chen Guangcheng settlement. It’s hard to read it and not think “Elian Gonzales.” Epstein and Devore give us this set-up.

Two days after the president flew to Afghanistan for a carefully constructed trip to press the image of a strong foreign policy leader — he’s ending two wars, he ordered the raid that killed Osama bin Laden — he’s caught in a thorny foreign policy situation his administration didn’t ask for, tried hard to avoid and that risks setting up the president as a lead negotiator unable to close the deal.

Doesn’t that read like the nut graf you’d write before a university granted Chen a fellowship and started to close the book? It’s almost as if Republicans had finally loaded their weapons, and Politico captured time-delayed photos of the final bullets.

[W]hat put Chen in prison and house arrest for seven years plays right into the domestic political debate of the moment. He and his wife are responsible for revealing rampant mandatory sterilizations and forced abortions, torture and abuse tied to China’s strict one-child policy. Chen heightened the drama by calling into a special congressional hearing that Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) quickly convened Thursday afternoon.

Here’s a video of the hearing. Pay attention to the start of it.

Congress was in recess this week. The “hearing” consisted of an appearance from the chairman, Smith, a hyperactive and compelling pro-life advocate, and Rep. Frank Wolf, whose district is a short drive from Washington. Smith could have easily done this for reporters in his office. The hearing elevated the story. Look, maybe the university deal will fall apart, but if it doesn’t, the Chen crisis won’t actually be a crisis.