Brazil’s President Not First to Snub Obama

Brazil, other world leaders, and U.S. athletes decline White House invitations.

September 19, 2013, 11:32 AM
PHOTO: After it's been revealed that the N.S.A. spied on Brazilian citizens and companies, the US government has not been able to appease President Dilma Rousseff.
US President Barack Obama greets Brazils President Dilma Rousseff as they arrive for a photo opp at the G20 summit on Sept 6, 2013 in Saint Petersburg. After it's been revealed that the N.S.A. spied on Brazilian citizens and companies, the US government has not been able to appease President Rousseff.

Sept 19, 2013— -- Brazilian President Dilma Roussef postponed a state visit to the United States in response to N.S.A. spying of millions of Brazilians, the country’s most important businesses, members of her party, and herself.

Roussef’s decision has been welcomed as courageous and criticized as unnecessary by analysts in Brazilian media.

Outside the country, however, the event’s interpretation has been quite different.The trip, which was meant to bolster diplomatic and commercial ties between the two countries, would have marked the first state visit of a Brazilian president since 1995. Roussef’s tour of the White House would have marked a crucial meeting between the United States and a rising Latin American power that has been adamantly courted by China in recent years.

Under that light, the Brazilian government’s move has been largely interpreted as a major snub of the White House, “a remarkably rare decision in the annals of diplomacy,” as the New York Times put it.

Rare as it may be, Roussef’s snub of a U.S. president is far from unique. In past years, world leaders, athletes, and politicians across the globe have declined White House invitations for various reasons.

Here are five of the most recent examples:

After Obama snub, Kenyan president visits China and Russia before heading to U.S. (August 2013)

In the summer of 2013, President Barack Obama skipped Kenya during his first sub-Saharan Africa tour. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and his second in command are accused of committing crimes against humanity in the country’s 2007 elections, and that’s why Obama chose to bypass his father’s homeland, according to Senior White House advisers.

President Kenyatta responded to Obama’s decision by organizing trips to China and Russia, a different yet an unmistakable kind of snub. Kenyatta signed multi-billion dollar agreements during his China visit.

’72 Miami Dolphins players skip White House invite (August 2013)

In August, Hall of Fame center Jim Langer, guard Bob Kuechenberg, and defensive tackle Manny Fernandez, three players from the 1972 Miami Dolphins team, refused to visit the White House, citing political differences with President Obama.

"We've got some real moral compass issues in Washington," Langer told the Sun Sentinel’s David Hyde. "I don't want to be in a room with those people and pretend I'm having a good time. I can't do that. If that [angers] people, so be it."

Polish Nobel Peace Prize winner Lech Walesa refuses Obama meeting (May 2011)

On a visit to Poland in 2011, President Obama was to attend a meeting with former Polish president and fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner Lech Walesa. A few days before the gathering, Walesa announced that he would not attend.

"I expect this meeting would only amount to a photo opportunity," Walesa told the AFP news agency. Sources close to Walesa told the AFP that the former Polish president was expecting Obama to send him a personal invitation.

Japanese Prime Minister cancels U.S. trip (November 2009)

In November 2009, Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama abruptly called off a state visit to the U.S. The trip, which was meant to assuage rising tensions over U.S. military bases in the island, was cancelled due to “scheduling demands,” according to Japanese officials.

A cable from U.S. intelligence analyst Stratfor, released by Wikileaks, hinted that Hatoyama was actually rebuffing Obama in an effort to raise his political image prior to an important election.

Pittsburgh Steelers Linebacker Turns Down White House Tour… Twice (May 2009)

Athletes are perhaps the most likely guests to rebuff a U.S. president. In 2009, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison became the first one to refuse two invitations from the White House. Harrison first turned down George W. Bush in 2006. Three years later, he declined Obama’s invitation.

"This is how I feel -- if you want to see the Pittsburgh Steelers, invite us when we don't win the Super Bowl. As far as I'm concerned, he would've invited Arizona if they had won," Harrison said.

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