Wrong time for President Obama to visit Brazil?

The answer, in a word, is yes.

A Mike Deaver (Reagan), a Dick Morris (Clinton), a David Gergen (Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Clinton) would have seen this coming a week ago and any one of them would likely have advised the boss to postpone his trip Saturday to Brazil — followed by Chile and El Salvador — and certainly not to turn it into a family vacation. (Michelle and the girls will be joining him.)

On the other hand, Brazil is a hugely important trading partner for the U.S — the world’s seventh largest economy — and it’s natural for an American president to take notice. The president has said that the main purpose of his trip is to massage trade deals and boost jobs at home.

But perhaps not while nuclear plants in Japan are still burning and Moammar Gadhafi is on the verge of destroying the rebel movement and threatening to go house to house and closet to closet to track down unrepentant rebels. “No mercy for them,” he promises.

And then there’s that matter of the vote Thursday in the UN Security Council approving a resolution allowing a no-fly zone over Libya. Five security council countries abstained, and Brazil, which does billions in business with Libya and Gadhafi, was one of them.

Should make for an interesting conversation between Obama and Brazil’s new president, Dilma Rousseff. Should make for some interesting questions, assuming that the two leaders hold a joint press conference.

A photo of the president, viewed lately as passive and indecisive, and his daughters walking on a Brazilian beach would not be a good idea at all; especially if the much-delayed no-fly zone —  France and England were the main drivers; only in the end did Obama push for it too — turns out to be too little, too late.