Now the White House ponders what Abdullah's sudden and sparsely explained cancellation of the dinner signifies. Nothing good -- especially for Condoleezza Rice's most important Middle East initiatives -- is the clearest available answer.
Abdullah's bowing out of the April 17 event is, in fact, one more warning sign that the Bush administration's downward spiral at home is undermining its ability to achieve its policy objectives abroad. Friends as well as foes see the need, or the chance, to distance themselves from the politically besieged Bush.
UPDATE: The Bush administration responded with shock to King Abdullah’s declaration that the U.S. is “illegitimately” occupying Iraq. “We were a little surprised to see those remarks,” said Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns. White House spokesman Dana Perino claimed, “It is not accurate to say that the United States is occupying Iraq.”