In a flagrant political act, the State Department has barred its employees from attending Sen. Barack Obama's speech in Berlin tonight. Under the pretense that he is maintaining political neutrality, the Washington Post reported today, State Department Undersecretary for Management Patrick F. Kennedy has interpreted the Foreign Affairs Manual in the most restrictive way, claiming that he is ensuring that foreign service officials will remain untainted by a "partisan political act." (Spouse and family members, however, have generously been excluded from this ruling.) The U.S. embassy, which is headed by ambassador Robert Timken, a businessman and crony of George W. Bush's from Ohio, who is widely reviled in Germany for his ignorance of foreign affairs, has instructed officials not to attend the rally. The American Foreign Service Association has complained about the edict but there's not enough time to dispute it. Funny that.
The truth is that there would probably be few better opportunities for embassy officials to get a feel for the views of the Germans by mixing with them during the rally. Of course, the sentiments expressed by Germans, who worship Obama as much as they loathe George W. Bush, might not be ones that the administration is eager to hear.
Indeed, the administration has a long and tawdry record of trying to browbeat government agencies into submission, whether it's the CIA or the Centers for Disease Control. The State Department is perhaps highest on the list of conservatives and neocons who see it as the center of disloyalty and treachery. But this latest action represents a new low. If it's going to these lengths, the Bush administration must be really worried about Sen. John McCain's prospects.