Bush and the Dalai Lama, circa 2003

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Bush went ahead with his meeting with the Dalai Lama on Tuesday, though the White House took a few steps to downplay the event, like holding it in the president’s private residence and not releasing a photo. White House spokesperson Dana Perino said, “We in no way want to stir the pot and make China feel that we are poking a stick in their eye.” She added, correctly, that it probably wouldn’t do much good.

China’s state-run press was in full indignation mode. It was the lead story in Wednesday’s China Daily, topping even the news of the national congress of the Communist Party. One delegate to the congress, Tibet Autonomous Region chairman Qiangba Puncog, told the daily that the monk’s “influence is very limited.” In one sense that’s true, as the Dalai Lama has made little progress in his efforts to achieve true autonomy for Tibet. But given the ferocious response in Beijing, it’s clear that he still has some clout.

After the extended discussion about the White House’s decision not to issue a photo from the Tuesday meeting, it was a bit surprising to see a shot of Bush and the Tibetan spiritual leader over the headline “Take That, China!” at the Drudge Report. (Here’s a screen grab of the page.) On further inspection it appears to be a photo from the Dalai Lama’s 2003 visit to the White House.