Chinese dissident Chen's escape is inopportune. President Obama is in a tough election battle. China faces a leadership change. Washington's angst over how to protect Chen without infuriating Beijing is matched by Beijing's desire to silence him without incurring world disdain.
Pleas for US help like those from dissident Chen in China can wear down a superpower trying to reorient itself. Yet foreigners still look to American for moral leadership. A mature democracy should know how to resolve such dilemmas.