Friday, July 25, 2008

Obama's Germany Speech

I probably shouldn't broach this, but the blogosphere has been absolutely abuzz with chatter about the Foreign Serivce Officers in Berlin being banned from attending Obama's speech there.

At the risk of public flogging, I sort of understand the ban.

Yes, as a public diplomacy-coned officer, I would have liked to have been there to gauge crowd response. But this was a very partisan event, paid for by the Obama campaign. Unlike the Afghanistan and Iraq portions of the trip, which were part of a CODEL (Congressional Delegation) and therefore required mission support, this was paid for by a campaign funds.

When we are overseas, we are considered to be on duty 24/7 and we represent the American people --all of them-- and the American government. We are allowed to comment on domestic policy but not to disagree with foreign policy. That is part of the deal we sign on to when we join the Foreign Service. You may not like it, you don't have to like it, but you have to do it or find employment elsewhere.

Some have argued that had this been McCain, Embassy officials would have been allowed to attend. Perhaps. But it would have been no more appropriate for them to attend if that trip was paid for by campaign funds.

Oh and for the record, the reports that say we can not donate to a political campaign are incorrect. According to the Hatch Act, we CAN donate to campaigns, we can volunteer our time, etc. We just can't use our official position in any capacity in that work, regardless of political affiliation.


Anonymous said...

So if the event was on the weekend and you were NOT in official capacity, just an American abroad, would you have been able to attend?

Digger said...

Any American abroad not affiliated with the Embassy (or likely also the consulates) in Germany could attend the speech if they were able to get in.