After Mr. Obama's bilateral meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, the Chinese began sending lower-level functionaries to the multilateral meetings.
The Obama team tried to schedule a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and was told he was at the airport readying to leave. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva also was unavailable. South African President Jacob Zuma said there was no point meeting without India and Brazil. Then the Chinese pushed the bilateral meeting back to 7 p.m.
"We were told they were at the airport," a senior administration official said. "We were told delegations were split up. We were told they weren't going to meet." So imagine Mr. Obama's surprise when he arrived for the bilateral powwow and found all four leaders in the room already in deep discussion. "Are you ready for me?" he said with an "uncharacteristic edge" to his voice, according to a CBS News report.
"We weren't crashing a meeting," an Obama flack later explained defensively. "We were going for our bilateral meeting." But that didn't stop him from walking in where he wasn't invited. Clearly, Mr. Obama learned a few things from his own White House party crashers.
There was no chair at the table for Mr. Obama so he announced he would sit next to his "friend Lula," whose staff had to scramble to make room for the president and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. On Monday, Mr. da Silva used his weekly radio program to rebuke the United States for its stance at Copenhagen.