Havel, Still a Man of Morals and Mischief
The New York Times[Tuesday, October 20, 2009 17:11]
By ALISON SMALE

Vaclav Havel took aim at what he called the current “era of disgust” in Czech politics. (Michal Novotny for The New York Times)
Vaclav Havel took aim at what he called the current “era of disgust” in Czech politics. (Michal Novotny for The New York Times)
PRAGUE — It was supposed to be an interview about the revolutions that overturned communism 20 years ago in Europe. But first, Vaclav Havel had a question.

Was it true that President Obama had refused to meet the Dalai Lama in Washington?

Mr. Havel is a fan of the Dalai Lama, who was among the first visitors to Prague’s storied castle after Mr. Havel moved in there as president, the final act in the swift, smooth revolution of 1989. A picture of the Dalai Lama is displayed prominently in Mr. Havel’s current office in central Prague.

Told that Mr. Obama had made clear he would receive the Dalai Lama after his first presidential visit to China in November, Mr. Havel reached out to touch a magnificent glass dish, inscribed with the preamble to the United States Constitution — a gift from Mr. Obama, who visited in April.

“It is only a minor compromise,” Mr. Havel said of the nonreception of the Tibetan leader. “But exactly with these minor compromises start the big and dangerous ones, the real problems.

“This is actually the first time I really do mind something Obama did,” Mr. Havel said. He minded it “much more” than Mr. Obama’s recent decision not to station elements of a missile-defense system in the Czech Republic, a move that several Central European politicians criticized but that Mr. Havel noted was ultimately “an internal American decision.”

One day after his 73rd birthday, with a half-drunk glass of Champagne at his side in midafternoon, the man who steered the Czechs and Slovaks out of communism showed that his morals, and his sense of mischief, were intact.

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