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WSJ: Lech Walesa was deemed ‘too political’ to accept Medal of Freedom on behalf of Jan Karski

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By Doug Powers  •  June 1, 2012 01:58 PM

**Written by Doug Powers

A brief addition to Wednesday’s “Obama ticks off Poland” post.

President Obama’s “Polish death camp” remark (for which Obama just sent Poland a “letter of regret”) was the headline-maker from the Medal of Freedom ceremony earlier this week, but there were other controversies churning beneath the surface. One of them, according to the Wall Street Journal by way of Rory Cooper at NRO, was the exclusion of Lech Walesa:

According to the Wall Street Journal, Polish officials requested that Walesa accept the Medal of Freedom on behalf of Jan Karski, a member of the Polish Underground during World War II who was being honored posthumously this week. The request makes sense. Walesa and Karski shared a burning desire to rid Poland of tyrannical subjugation. But President Obama said no.

Administration officials told the Journal that Walesa is too “political.” A man who was arrested by Soviet officials for dissenting against the government for being “political” is being shunned by the United States of America for the same reason 30 years later.

A New York Post editorial speculates that “too political” might have been an excuse for avoiding a man tied to the memory of Ronald Reagan, or for that matter, steering clear of someone who actually earned his Nobel Peace Prize. However, the WSJ indicates that it’s more of a grudge:

Last year, during Mr. Obama’s visit to Poland, the hero of Solidarity refused to attend a large gathering to meet the younger leader. Mr. Walesa felt entitled to a tete-a-tete. Administration officials told Polish journalists that Mr. Walesa’s presence was too “political” for this week’s occasion. Poles read something else into it: Mr. Obama holds grudges. The counter-snub was the talk of Poland last week.

If Walesa was in fact deemed too “political” for the Medal of Freedom ceremony, the White House had a weird way of keeping it non-political:

Meanwhile, one of the recipients of the Medal was Dolores Huerta, the honorary chair of the Democratic Socialists of America. So socialist politics are acceptable, but not the politics of a man who stood up and fought socialism.

To quote Emperor Joseph II in Amadeus: “Well, there it is.”

**Written by Doug Powers

Twitter @ThePowersThatBe

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Categories: Barack Obama, Health care, New York Times, Paul Krugman