Nothing demonstrates the arrogance and tone-deafness that is part and parcel of United States foreign policy better than the state visit. Over the past several days, I have had to witness the President of the United States hemming and hawing over nonsensical explanations of what is going on in Libya. Nothing unusual there, except that he was doing it at press conferences during state visits to Chile and El Salvador while standing at a podium beside the heads of state of those two nations. Obama, in English, provided lengthy explanations of US policy to English speaking American reporters, reducing his hosts to little more than ventriloquist dummies standing by his side. The behavior is insulting, to put it mildly, and the hosts must feel completely idiotic and irrelevant.
And it works the same way when a head of state visits Washington. The White House press conference inevitably turns into a discussion of current domestic issues that frequently have no relationship to the visitor’s country or to any actual policy issues relating to the visit.
It would seem that it would be relatively simple to insist at all these events that questions only be related to the visitor and his visit and that questions should be addressed, as a courtesy, to both heads of state. The State Department’s daily briefing can handle other urgent foreign policy issues to make sure the media is not starved of propaganda while the foreign visitor is in town.