WASHINGTON: Germany and Britain became the first countries to issue a “travel warning” for the United States as the government shutdown in America entered the second day on Wednesday with no sign of resolution. Feisty Democrats and hardline Republicans stuck to their guns, the former rejecting proposals from conservatives to fund re-opening of just parts of the government with an “all-or-nothing” response.
President Obama meantime curtailed a four-nation Asia trip that is to begin Saturday to just two nations (Indonesia and Brunei), scrapping tail-end visits to Malaysia and Philippines because the disruption prevented the White House from sending an advance party to the final two stops.
It was just one of many unexpected fall-outs from the shutdown spectacle that is attracting universal bemusement and dismay, and a growing domestic backlash. The German warning was not about terrorism in the familiar sense, but related to what many are calling hostage-taking tactics by some US lawmakers that is disrupting workaday administration with greater severity with each passing hour.
The German foreign ministry notification on what it called Verwaltungsstillstand (government shutdown) notified travelers of possible longer wait times at passport control and other inconveniences, including closure of many historic sites and national parks. “Air traffic control, security and immigration processes are not currently expected to be disrupted, but delays may occur,” the British travel advisory said.
Indeed, in Washington DC and across the country, tourists both domestic and foreign faced frustrating “closed” signs at national monuments and parks. In an era when many government functions and operations have devolved on to the Internet, the shutdown also began to choke websites.
Nasa’s famed website, haunt of air and space buffs across the world, flashed a message that read: Due to the lapse in federal government funding, this website is not available. We sincerely regret this inconvenience. The White House website itself threw up this message on Wednesday morning: Due to Congress’s failure to pass legislation to fund the government, the information on this web site may not be up to date. Some submissions may not be processed, and we may not be able to respond to your inquiries.
While some commentators said, rather hopefully, that cool heads and rational thinking will prevail after a bout of brinkmanship, others were spooked by the thought that this is just a trailer for another showdown that may follow — the government’s need to raise the US debt ceiling by October 17 so that it can pay its bills. Republicans have threatened to throw more sand in the wheels, spooking an already nervous international community that is starting to worry about the political and financial stability of the United States.
‘Biggest gift to enemies’
The cover illustration of the German business daily Handelsblatt on Wednesday showed the Statue of Liberty in chains, her torch hanging by her side, with the caption “The Blocked World Power”. On the floor of the Senate, California lawmaker Dianne Feinstein warned that the failure of Congress to perform its most basic functions “means our country is more at risk of a terrorist attack,” adding, “Our shutdown is the biggest gift we could possibly give our enemies.”
None of this seemed to perturb Tea Party hardliners led by Ted Cruz, the freshman Senator from Texas who has become the face of Republican extremism and rebellion. Moderate Republicans have been reduced to moaning that the party is now in “Cruz control” after it was forced to advance his version of a compromise — offering to fund specific parts of the government and holding out till the President scales back his Obamacare initiative.
Expectedly, the Democrats rejected the proposals and threw the ball right back to the Republicans. The shutdown showdown looks likely to go on for some — perhaps several — more days.