all the times a Spanish president has stepped into the Oval Office
Pedro Sánchez meets this Friday with the President of the United StatesJoe Biden, in the already famous Oval Office. It will be the first time that the head of the Spanish Executive officially visits the White House. Since Adolfo Suárez, all Spanish presidents have visited the facilities that house the American president, although not with the same intensity.
Suárez only shook hands with Jimmy Carter; Felipe González met Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton; José María Aznar greeted Clinton and George W. Bush; Zapatero only met Barack Obama; and Rajoy met Obama and Donald Trump. For Sánchez it is the first time, despite being the head of the Spanish government since 2018.
Visited on a couple of occasions to Jimmy Carter. The first was in April 1977. Suarez had just won the first democratic elections in Spain since 1936. They were two newcomers, because Carter had been in the White House for only three months. The second meeting between the two leaders was in January 1980.
The president who did not set foot in the Oval Office.
Leopoldo Calvo-Sotelo was the second Prime Minister of Spain since the restoration of democracy, but he did not have time to travel to the United States to be received by its President (it would have been Reagan). And this despite the fact that Calvo Sotelo, head of the Executive between February 1981 and December 1982, approved Spain’s entry into NATO.
He has not been the Spanish president who has visited the Oval Office the most often, but he has been the one who has met the most heads of government of the other party.. After all, no one has been in the Moncloa as long as the politician from Seville: from October 1982 to March 1996. In those fourteen years as head of the Executive, Felipe González visited the White House four times. González met with Reagan (twice, 1983 and 1985); with George Bush Sr. (also twice, 1989 and 1992) and with Bill Clinton (in 1993).
José María Aznar
The Spaniard has been the Spanish chief executive who has been received in the Oval Office the most times. He was there six times: twice he met with Bill Clinton (1997 and 1999) and four times with George W. Bush, who praised him as one of the most “solid” leaders. The first time, in 2001, was only two months after the 9/11 attacks. The others were in 2002, 2003 and 2004, when the American said that relations between Spain and the US were at the “highest” point in history. There was ideological and personal chemistry. In fact, Aznar (president between 1996 and 2004) visited Bush in Washington on more occasions but already privately.
José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero
In his seven years as Spanish prime minister, he visited the White House once. It was in October 2009 and it was Barack Obama who received him. Washington did not invite Zapatero during his first term (he would have met with George Bush) because of the Spanish decision, the first one taken by Zapatero, to withdraw troops from Iraq. So Zapatero visited the Oval Office with Barack Obama and when relations between the two countries were returning to normal. Perhaps for that reason, the Spanish president offered to take in several Guantanamo prisoners.
He was also president for seven years and was in the White House twice. The first was two years into his term, in January 2014: Rajoy interviewed with Obama. The second occasion was with Trump, September 2017. It was only five days before the referendum in Catalonia and Trump did not give up on getting involved. “The people of Catalonia should stay in Spain. I think it would be foolish not to,” the U.S. leader said.