The N.S.A. scandal, the White House's response to it and President Dilma Rousseff's decision to cancel the state visit have revealed the weakness of the U.S.-Brazil relationship. After all, other than big business, neither Rousseff nor Obama have constituents clamoring for stronger ties.
And although the visit lacked an ambitious agenda, the symbolism of this milestone is unmistakable. Indeed, this state visit by Brazil to the U.S. could have propelled the different kind of relationship both Obama and Rousseff seemed sincere about pursuing. But without it, visas will be granted, capital will flow and the myriad, now institutionalized bilateral dialogues, will continue.
Still, the "postponement" requires hard truths: Despite announcing before the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday that his administration has begun reviewing the way it gathers intelligence, President Obama has yet to apologize to the American people or American companies for the spying. He has been slow to acknowledge the violations of privacy, and he has not told the N.S.A. to stop its surveillance. It's hard to imagine Brazil receiving a more satisfying response than the American people have to date.