Fearful Symmetries

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03 March, 2014

Riots in Stoughton, Minnesota Over Obama's Nominee for Ambassadorship to Norway

Norwegian-Americans in Stoughton and all over Minnesota are marching down the streets accompanied by Grieg on the hardanger fiddle, burning and pillaging as they go.

OK, not quite. Those Norwegians are a bit too mild-mannered to riot. But they are highly unamused by Obama's choice of George Tsunis for ambassador to Norway.

In Minnesota, home to the largest Norwegian population in the U.S., Norwegian organizations and public officials reacted with alarm to a series of bumbling answers and non-answers that George Tsunis, a Long Island businessman who raised $850,000 for the president’s reelection campaign, gave to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in response to basic questions about the Nordic nation’s economy, culture and political system.

Tsunis, who has never been to Norway, blanked in response to a question from Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, about how to increase trade with the oil-rich Nordic nation. And when Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, asked him what he thought about the anti-immigration Progress Party that is now a member of the governing coalition in parliament, Tsunis claimed that the party was a fringe element that the government had been “quick to denounce.”

Representatives of the Norwegian-American Chamber of Commerce and the Sons of Norway, both of which are based in Minneapolis, as well as Minnesota’s two U.S. Senators, Al Franken and Amy Klobucher, have voiced dismay at Tsunis’ apparent unfamiliarity with the nation in which he hopes to represent American interests.

And a stop by the Norwegian-American Genealogical Center on W. Main St. in Madison revealed no shortage of disappointment from the local Norwegian community to the perceived slight.

“It doesn’t sound like he knows anything about the culture,” said Solveig Quinney, the head librarian at the center, which keeps records on Norwegian immigration to the U.S. and holds classes on Norwegian culture. “He kept referring to the prime minister as ‘president.’”


Speaking of Norway, when is Pioneer going to open here in the States? And two co-workers of mine are considering starting a lefse wrap food cart. One mentioned meatballs so I asked what the difference between Norwegian and Swedish meatballs were thinking that perhaps one had more nutmeg or some juniper but instead he replied, "Norwegian ones are better." I have helpfully suggested that reindeer and lingonberry be added to the menu.

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|| Palmer, 12:28 PM

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