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President Obama Shuns Lech Walesa
The Polish Solidarity leader is “too political” for the administration.

By Rory Cooper

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Lech Walesa


Lech Walesa was once a trade-union activist. He was often arrested for speaking his mind against Communist oppression behind the Iron Curtain in Poland and for defying the Soviet Union. He was an electrician who, with no higher education, led one of the most profound freedom movements of the 20th century — Solidarity. He became president of Poland and swept in reforms, pushing the Soviet Union out of his homeland and moving the country toward a free-market economy and individual liberty. And President Obama doesn’t want him to set foot in the White House.

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.

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.


This revelation follows an eruption of outrage in Poland after President Obama referred in his remarks at the Medal of Freedom ceremony to “Polish death camps,” a phrase that Poles have battled since the end of the Cold War. The phrase suggests that Poles were complicit in Nazi concentration camps, which of course is not the case. In fact, Poles were exterminated in the camps.

The White House’s flippant response to the uproar caused the Polish president and prime minister to demand more thoughtful and personal reactions. But White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday that the president has no plans to reach out to his Polish counterparts and has shrugged off the outrage in Poland.

Few observers are suggesting that President Obama’s written remarks noting “Polish death camps” were intentionally malicious. The comment was more likely a result of historical ignorance and careless inattention. This is the same ignorance and carelessness that would cause a president to turn away Lech Walesa and label him as “too political.”

Ironically, Lech Walesa shares a distinction with President Obama: They both won Nobel Peace Prizes. Walesa earned his in 1983 after years of fighting for peace and freedom, and being monitored, harassed, and jailed for it. President Obama received his award in 2009. Some may think that this would be enough of a bond for President Obama to set aside political differences for the greater good. But instead, President Obama treated Walesa the same way he treated the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, who was ushered out the White House kitchen past piles of garbage in 2010.

The likelihood is that President Obama didn’t want Walesa in the White House because Walesa has made critical remarks toward the president’s policies and in 2010 warned that the United States was slipping toward socialism. But rather than taking the mature and diplomatic path and respecting Walesa’s right to have a differing perspective, Obama chose to shun his lifetime of achievements.

Congratulating Walesa on his Nobel Prize in 1983, President Ronald Reagan said: “For too long, the Polish government has tried to make Lech Walesa a non-person and destroy the free trade-union movement that he helped to create in Poland. But no government can destroy the hopes that burn in the hearts of a people. The people of Poland have shown in their support of Solidarity, just as they showed in their support of His Holiness Pope John Paul II during his visit to Poland, that the government of that nation cannot make Lech Walesa a non-person, and they can’t turn his ideas into non-ideas.”

The White House should not treat President Walesa as a non-person, and they cannot turn his ideas into non-ideas.

— Rory Cooper is director of communications at the Heritage Foundation. You can follow him on Twitter @rorycooper


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   06/01/12 05:21

Further evidence, as if we needed it, of the urgent need to send BO packing. He is a scoundrel, an ignoramus, and a spoiled brat.

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Boogie Mann
   06/01/12 13:25

If only it were true that Obama is merely "a scoundrel, an ignoramus, and a spoiled brat". The truth is that he is sly and cunning. He is a Marxist who is committed to the goals of communism. In the Marxist/Progressive world truth and lies are equal tools to be used to achieve their goals. Hence his claims of Christianity are used when it's convenient. When it is not to his advantage he quietly slips his Christianity back into the drawer and re-assumes his Marxist values. So, as far as him being "a scoundrel, an ignoramus and a spoiled brat", he may be all that. But he is far more than those things. He is a truly dangerous and untrustworthy man.

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Mr. J
   06/01/12 18:07

Let's just make it simple, if Mr Walesa fought communism, he's Obama's enemy.

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   06/03/12 16:25

you hit the nail on the head. I only wish more of us could see what you see.

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   06/03/12 16:25

you hit the nail on the head. I only wish more of us could see what you see.

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   06/01/12 21:15

Not only a Socialist, but a PUNK.. with no class at all.

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   06/02/12 16:47

It seems to me that Mr. Obama has done the math and deterrmined that he has no need of the Polish-American vote (as if he ever had it in the first place!).

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karl anglin
   06/04/12 11:37

Lech Walesa A man of courage
Barack Obama A weasel

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   06/01/12 06:17

Obama is such a craven, cowardly despicable man. Every time I turn around he does something to make me more disgusted with him.

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   06/01/12 09:50

He is a detestable cur.

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   06/01/12 06:26

Walesa = too political;


Walesa = too Christian

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Roger H.
   06/01/12 13:37

And he doesn't want to do anything that might upset the Russians.

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   06/01/12 07:06

Every time one of these incidents becomes public, I am reminded what a small, petty little man Obama is.

No, I don't think the phrase "Polish death camps" was unintentional. He intended the disrespect.

Were Poles guilty of collaborating with Nazis? Sure, SOME were - so were SOME of the French, SOME of the Scandis, and SOME of the other inhabitants of Europe.

Many of them were cowed by the ease with which Germany took their country. Some of them were pushed to the Nazi side by their anti-Soviet views. Some just wanted to live, and chose to work with them rather than risk they, and their families, joining the Jews in their fate.

Obama disrespects these Nobel laureates because he also disdains the Nobel prize - hey, it's apparently not that hard to get - at least if you're the Chosen One. That some Nobel-winning men and women risked all is beyond him.

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Jenny Paris
   06/01/12 18:56

Yes -- small, mean and petty. And treats the presidency as his own personal plaything, with all the capriciousness of a four-year-old, with just as little responsibility.

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   06/01/12 07:12

Lech Walesa should feel proud -- he now joins Winston Churchill and Bibi Netanyahu in the small, but growing, club of those Officially Disapproved of by Corpseman Choomboy.

Obama's Enemies List is less an Enemies List than an Honor Roll.

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   06/01/12 08:59
   06/01/12 11:22

One of the best posts I've read on any site in a long time.

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   06/01/12 11:14

Mugabe has been appointed to some tourism post/position at the UN. Perhaps Obama could invite him to the WH to congratulate him on his success.

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   06/01/12 13:38

Or, Obama could name him "Property Czar", to match his experience in theft of other people's with Obama's agenda.

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   06/01/12 12:29

Ol' BiBi doest count. No Zionist counts.

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