Barack Obama's trip to Oslo to pick up his Nobel peace award is in danger of being overshadowed by a row over the cancellation of a series of events normally attended by the prizewinner.Norwegians think the President is rude to not meet with the King, even though the Committee is doing its best to cover its disappointment in the inability to hold all the usual scheduled events.
Norwegians are incensed over what they view as his shabby response to the prize by cutting short his visit.
The White House has cancelled many of the events peace prize laureates traditionally submit to, including a dinner with the Norwegian Nobel committee, a press conference, a television interview, appearances at a children's event promoting peace and a music concert, as well as a visit to an exhibition in his honour at the Nobel peace centre.
He has also turned down a lunch invitation from the King of Norway.
According to a poll published by the daily tabloid VG, 44% of Norwegians believe it was rude of Obama to cancel his scheduled lunch with King Harald, with only 34% saying they believe it was acceptable.
"Of all the things he is cancelling, I think the worst is cancelling the lunch with the king," said Siv Jensen, the leader of the largest party in opposition, the populist Progress party. "This is a central part of our government system. He should respect the monarchy," she told VG.
The Norwegian Nobel committee, which awards the peace prize, dismissed the criticism. "We always knew that there were too many events in the programme. Obama has to govern the US and we were told early on that he could not commit to all of them," said Geir Lundestad, secretary of the committee.
I can't fault the President for not attending all the events as scheduled as there are other issues to deal with on this latest trip to Europe, even as protocol would dictate his attendance and foreign policy and diplomacy can and do get furthered by these very kinds of events. Lundestad, who has written books on international relations, knows very well how diplomacy operates so he's playing down the snubs.