Foreign dignitaries visit the United States frequently. Most of them stay for a few days in Washington, D.C. Some of them visit the United Nations in New York. Few of them stray from the governmental and cultural centers of the United States. So, why is Chinese President Hu Jintao traveling to Chicago?
This week, President Obama invited President Hu to visit the White House. There, Obama plans to roll out the red carpet with a black tie dinner with all the usual taxpayer-provided accoutrements. By contrast, the Dalai Lama of Tibet was forced to walk out of the White House's side door near an enormous pile of trash bags.
From there, Hu will move on to the Windy City, where he'll be hosted by Richard Daley, brother of new White House chief of staff Bill Daley. Hu will spend his time in Chicago visiting a Chinese car spare parts factory and a Chinese school. Exclaimed Daley: "It's a big deal. Big, big, big, big. Big deal." It is a big deal -- for President Obama.
The same week that President Obama invited President Hu to the United States, media outlets reported that Obama was preparing to launch his 2012 campaign in earnest. The Wall Street Journal broke the news that Obama's re-election campaign would be announced this month "with fundraising likely to begin in March or early April." Politico.com stated that Obama's advisers were "quietly working to bring back together the major donor base that produced a record-breaking fundraising haul in his first run for president."
At the same time, many of these outlets reported that Obama faced an uphill battle to raise cash. Obama has alienated the same Wall Street contingent that put him in power; he has alienated the pharmaceutical companies, whom he blackmailed repeatedly during his push for Obamacare. Even Obama's erstwhile allies are shying away from his re-election campaign, with his approval numbers on thin ice.
Where's a struggling Democratic incumbent president to turn? To China, perhaps.
It seems unlikely that Hu is visiting Chicago to hang out at Chinese schools or manufacturing plants. Both New York and San Francisco have larger Asian populations than Chicago. It's even more unlikely that Hu is visiting Chicago because it's a booming economic hub -- the state of Illinois raised its income tax by 66 percent this week due to revenue difficulties.