Back in a flash! The Obamas, sans Oprah, hit Oslo (WH photo)
President Obama was a blur of activity today — a meeting with congressional leadership and a statement in the Diplomatic Reception Room. Then an announcement on community health centers in the Eisenhower Building, followed by a meeting with business and environmental leaders in the Roosevelt Room. Busy!
That's partly because the president and first lady are off tonight to Oslo, so he can accept the Nobel Peace Prize. The White House is hoping you won't even notice he's away — the trip is sandwiched between high-profile public events at home and the visit so truncated, he's skipping the traditional lunch with King Harald! And a meeting with some children! Will someone please think of the children?
The Daily Beast takes stock of the general sense of Scandanavian umbrage attending the president's visit:
News outlets across the region are calling Obama arrogant for slashing some of the prize winners’ traditional duties from his schedule. “Everybody wants to visit the Peace Center except Obama,” sniped the Norwegian daily Aftenposten, amid reports the president would snub his own exhibition at the Nobel Peace Center. “A bit arrogant—a bit bad,” proclaimed another Aftenposten headline.
Now he's done it. He's annoyed the Aftenposten. More from the Beast:
Also among the dissed, according to news reports: a concert in Oslo on Friday that was arranged in his honor, and a group of Norwegian children who had planned to meet Obama in front of City Hall.
“The American president is acting like an elephant in a porcelain shop,” said Norwegian public-relations expert Rune Morck-Wergeland. “In Norwegian culture, it’s very important to keep an agreement. We’re religious about that, and Obama’s actions have been clumsy. You just don’t say no to an invitation from a European king. Maybe Obama’s advisers are not very educated about European culture, but he is coming off as rude, even if he doesn’t mean to.”
The White House said Obama plans to confront head-on in his acceptance speech the apparent contradiction of running two wars while accepting a peace prize. There are major peace and anti-nuke protests expected during the president's visit, and polls show both Norwegians and Americans don't really think Obama deserved the award. Notes Reuters:
This “interesting coincidence of history” is not lost on the president, said a senior administration official who gave Reuters a preview of what Obama will say when he becomes the fourth U.S. president to receive the award.
“He is well aware there is an interesting context that he will be receiving this award roughly a week after announcing the deployment of 30,000 troops,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as Obama was still working on the estimated 20-25 minute speech.