- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 8, 2013

U.S. embassies around the world are conducting most diplomatic services in the second week of the partial government shutdown, although some ambassadors note they are not doing “business as usual.”

The most common effect of the fiscal showdown between President Obama and the Republican-led House is that many embassies have stopped updating their Twitter feeds.

However, the most high-profile consequence came in Finland, where U.S. Ambassador Bruce J. Oreck canceled his farewell party.

The son of a famous vacuum-cleaner salesman who even resembles the iconic Mr. Clean — with bulging biceps and an earring — the ambassador told his close friends in Helsinki that he called off the party because of the government shutdown, The Wall Street Journal reported.

A review of U.S. embassy websites showed they are issuing visas and U.S. passports and administering other diplomatic services with little disruption since the Oct. 1 spending impasse in Washington.

The embassy in London said it is continuing to “protect U.S. citizens, safeguard national security and advance trade and economic interests.”

Ambassador John B. Emerson in Berlin promised last week that he will keep the U.S. Embassy open as long as possible.

“Regardless of what happens [in Washington], Mission Germany will remain open and working tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that,” he wrote on the embassy website the day before the shutdown. “Our Consular Affairs operations will be open for German citizens and American citizens alike. So if you have an appointment, keep it. There will be somebody there to meet with you.”

Ambassador Michael McFaul in Russia was less confident.

“The new reality for us during the government shutdown is that we are not conducting business as usual in our diplomacy,” he said on Twitter.

Embassies in China, Israel, India, Saudi Arabia and other countries appeared to be coping with the crisis.

Embassies in troubled countries such as Egypt already were disrupted by domestic political upheaval.

The embassy in Afghanistan said it will “continue to function normally in the short term” because of the country’s “significance to the United States.”

In Pretoria, South Africa, an embassy spokeswoman sounded peeved at House Republicans.

“President Obama has said that the shutdown was preventable and that the Congress can end it,” said Joy Peters, an assistant information officer. “He is working to ensure that the government reopens as soon as possible.”

Ms. Peters noted that the embassy is not “conducting business as usual.” She noted a temporary hiring freeze of local residents, adding that the embassy is “severely curtailing spending.”

However, the embassy is still issuing visas and passports.


An article by a State Department writer posted on many U.S. embassy websites blames the government shutdown on George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and — oddly — Thomas Jefferson, who had nothing to do with drafting the U.S. Constitution.

While Washington presided over the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and Franklin attended as a representative of Pennsylvania, Jefferson was out of the country. He was ambassador to France.

The article by Bridget Hunter of the Bureau of International Information Programs recounts the frequent struggles over government shutdowns between presidents and the House of Representatives, where all spending bills must originate.

“And that is exactly what the Founding Fathers intended,” she wrote.

Embassy Row is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. James Morrison can be reached at [email protected] or @EmbassyRow.



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