Sunday, July 27, 2008

More Ado About the Obama Speech and the Alledged "Double Standard"

The issue of the folks from the Berlin Embassy being barred from attending Barack Obama's speech still has the blogsphere fired up, with this added twist: an alledged double standard.
Here's a sample:

But the ruling — which Kennedy admitted is unprecedented — appears to indicate a double standard from the State Department. Last June, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) delivered a speech to the Economic Club of Canada in Ottawa. The event was reportedly organized in part by U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins, whom President Bush appointed in 2005. But more than that, the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa confirmed to ThinkProgress that Wilkins also attended the event.

Not only did McCain make clear references to and critiques of Obama’s policy positions in the speech, but he also referred to his own presidential campaign six times.

Although both the McCain and Obama campaigns denied their respective speeches in Ottawa and Berlin were political, the State Department only prohibited diplomats from attending Obama’s event. The fact that Wilkins attended McCain’s speech without worries that he would “be seen to be advocating one side or the other,” undermines Kennedy’s justification for barring Foreign Service personnel from attending Obama’s speech.

What these and similar websites are failing to understand is that Ambassador Wilkins is NOT a Foreign Service Officer any more than Ambassador Bolton was. They both were (and Wilkins still is) political appointees. All Ambassadors are the President's representatives overseas and will resign their positions come January. Those who are NOT political appointees will likely resume their positions and those who aren't likely will not, even if the Republicans retain control of the White House.

Not so with your standard issue FSO. We continue in our positions regardless of shifts in administration. We are to be seen abroad as advocates for the current foreign policy of the United States. Our ability to do that is weakened if we are seen as taking one political side over the other.

So would it have been a double standard had FSOs attended the fundraiser organized by Ambassador Wilkins? Likely. Is it a double standard that Ambassador Wilkins, a political appointee picked by the President, did? Not really.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for including the link to the Hatch Act. Obviously a number of people including the political appointee Ambassador to Germany, State management and the Washington Post need to read it a little more carefully. So does the political appointee US Ambassador to Canada. Nice post.

Anonymous said...

I don't know. I get the fact that Amb. Wilkins is a political appointee, but he should still be held to the same standard as the rest of the mission. He is an ambassador regardless of the type of appointment.