The very people who are calling on political leaders, advertisers and athletes to boycott some or all of the Beijing Games are the same people who routinely pillory President George W. Bush for not following a policy of engagement with political foes.
Sen. John McCain has suggested President Bush reconsider his plans to attend the Olympic Games saying, "If Chinese policies and practices do not change, I would not attend the opening ceremonies."
Clinton we already know about.
Barack Obama skated on the issue first saying, according to the Agence France-Presse (AFP), "he was of 'two-minds' over whether the United States should play a full role in the Olympics, again citing Tibet and Darfur."
But upon, as NFL referees like to say, further review, Obama's folks realized he was the soft cheese standing along and so hardened his position saying: "If the Chinese do not take steps to help stop the genocide in Darfur and to respect the dignity, security, and human rights of the Tibetan people, then the president should boycott the opening ceremonies."
The people who get caught in the cross-fire of all this are the athletes. For a huge proportion of demonstrators against the Olympic Flame, their commitment to the protest was cutting their ten o'clock Poly Sci class.
The athletes, however have, in most cases, devoted the majority of their time on Earth preparing for these Games. If, having practiced for hours a day, every day, for years on end, an athlete decides that China's reluctance to help in Darfur or free Tibet is too much to overlook, then he or she has earned that right.
The pretension of politicians and protesters that anything China is doing today is any worse than it was doing in 2002 or 2003 or 2004 is at best, folly, and at worst, hypocrisy.