Former U.S. Ambassador Nicholas Burns said on “Morning Joe” Tuesday that the decision of four Arab leaders not to attend a Camp David pow-wow with President Obama was “a defeat for the White House and its foreign policy.”
“I think you have to call it a snub,” said Burns, who served under Democratic and Republican presidents alike.
“Really?” asked incredulous host Mika Brzezinski.
“I do, because I think the White House had established this as a major summit,” he continued. “It was the celebration of 70 years of U.S./Saudi relations, but more important, it was a gathering of countries to try to contain Iran.” (VIDEO: Search Marie Harf Writes Off Saudi Snub Of Obama As ‘Cable News Talking Point’)
“And the fact that two of leaders, King Hamad of Bahrain and King Salman, especially King Salman of Saudi Arabia are not coming when they were supposed to come as late as last Friday, it’s a defeat for the White House and its foreign policy,” he said. “I think you can’t see it any other way.”
Brzezinski pushed back, noting those countries were still sending crown princes and other top officials. “Does that not have any merit?”
“It does…” Burns allowed. “But in diplomacy, a lot of this, Mika, was about symbolism. It was about the heads of government, the king of Saudi Arabia, the new king who had not been to the United States to be in Washington for the dinner, and then to Camp David for the summit meeting.”
Host Joe Scarborough noted how unprecedented the snub was. “Can you think of a time when four of six countries, especially small countries, snubbed the president of the United States and passed on an opportunity to spend time with him at Camp David?” he asked. “I certainly can’t think of a time.” (RELATED: Top Democratic Diplomat: White House ‘Deluding Themselves’ On Foreign Polic)