Those scamps at MSNBC's First Read this morning write that Chinese President Hu Jintao is taking his "charm offensive" to Capitol Hill today. Are they joking?

The Chinese leader, while certainly a compelling presence, appears from a distance to be a little short in the charm department. At yesterday's press conference with President Obama, there was a faint trace of a tight smile at one point -- when he deferred a question about hostile U.S. lawmakers skipping the big state dinner.

"As for the latter question about the attendance of the state dinner by some congresspeople; as to who will attend, who will not attend and for what reasons, I think President Obama is certainly in a better position to answer that question," Hu said through a translator.

Today the Chinese leader heads for the hill -- a place Obama visits only reluctantly. In the past couple of days, lawmakers from both parties have been engaged in a sort of overheated brinksmanship in denouncing the visiting leader.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada called Hu a "dictator" during an interview -- then backtracked and said he could have chosen a better word.

Appearing last night on CNN's "Parker Spitzer" (that show is still on?) Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California said China should be  treated as a "gangster regime that murders its own people."

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican, deemed Hu "China's newest emporer," notes Politics Daily -- although she was trying to sort of say something neutral? She also called China a "repressive regime" and like a handful of others, declined the state dinner invite.