White House Correspondent
Two days after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called Chinese President Hu Jintao a "dictator
" on a Nevada talk show, the two men met face to face in the Capitol on Thursday morning.
On the heels of Hu's joint press conference with President Obama yesterday -- where the tense subject of human rights dominated
the discussion -- journalists covering the congressional meeting were told by staff that the two men would not take questions during a photo opportunity, and that reporters were expected to adhere to journalistic standards and codes of ethics, or risk being ejected from the room. (Presumably, this meant no questions about sensitive subjects including Reid's dictator comment and the fate of jailed Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobao.)
Nonetheless, one reporter did manage to ask what business Reid "expected to get done with a man he had called a dictator." Neither Hu nor Reid responded. Joining the two men in a private meeting following the photo op were Chinese officials including Foreign Affairs advisors Dai Bingguo, Cui Tankai and Yang Jeichi, as well as Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Richard Lugar (D-Ind.) and U.S. Ambassador to China John Huntsman.
As part of his swing through Washington -- which has been accorded the full pomp and circumstance of a state visit -- Hu traveled to Capitol Hill Thursday to meet with congressional leaders a day after the White House feted him
with a state dinner.
House Speaker John Boehner, like Reid, did not attend the dinner -- his office said Boehner would instead discuss matters privately with Hu Thursday morning. (A spokesman for Reid said the Nevada Democrat could not make the dinner because he was traveling Wednesday.)
From outside indicators, Hu had a fruitful meeting with House leaders, including Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), which ran overtime and caused a delay in the Chinese president's meeting with Senate leaders. Among the subjects discussed, according to Boehner's office, were economic ties between the U.S. and China, North Korean aggression, intellectual property violations, and "human rights" issues, including China's one-child policy. Pelosi's office noted that she broached the subject of Liu Xiaobao's detention and climate change with the Chinese leader.
In his comments Tuesday, Reid said that Hu "is a dictator
. He can do a lot of things through the form of government they have."
Reid quickly realized his word choice was problematic, saying: "Maybe I shouldn't have said 'dictator,' but they have a different type of government than we have and that is an understatement."