Barack Obama's trip to Oslo to pick up his Nobel peace award is in danger of being overshadowed by a row over cancellation of a series of events normally attended by the prize-winner.How can it test his rhetorical skills? TOTUS accompanies Obama everywhere, so have no fear, his soaring oratory will be on display and just for that alone the Norwegians should be thankful.
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, a music concert, as well as a visit to an exhibition in his honour at the Nobel Peace Centre.
What has also annoyed them is that Obama is snubbing a lunch invitation from the King of Norway. According to a poll published today by the daily 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, the secretary of the committee.
Although Obama will not lunch with King Harald, he will see him on a visit to the Royal Palace. Peace activists opposed to the Afghanistan war are planning a 5,000-strong protest in Oslo and have put up posters round the capital, reprising his famous campaign poster but altered to "Change?"
The visit will test Obama's rhetorical skills. He will seek to reconcile acceptance of the Nobel peace prize with sending an extra 30,000 US troops to Afghanistan. Obama, intent on minimising any embarrassment, is cutting short his trip, a move viewed as a snub by many Norwegians.
That king of theirs should get over it. Maybe Obama will give him an iPod with The Best of Obama loaded on it.
Meanwhile, other "peace activists" are descending on Oslo to protest, not that Obama will pay them any mind.