Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Congressional Flashmob Swarms Tel Aviv and Jerusalem

With Congress on its August vacation, our liberties and property are secure until after Labor Day. Good news for the rest of us, but bad news for the staffs at U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv and U.S. Consulate Jerusalem, where a whopping 81 - count 'em, 81 - visiting Congressmen plus their spouses are doing the grand tour of Israel on an excursion funded by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

They're coming in three waves. First, 26 Democrats - who are there now - followed by 55 Republicans in two groups, each of the three waves lasting one week. But this is not a CODEL, you see, because someone other than the U.S. taxpayer is footing the bill.

[B]ecause it’s not an official congressional trip paid for by taxpayers, there will be no military jet, no taking off when you feel like it, no landing in military airports. That’s part of the reason, in today’s parlance, it’s downgraded to only an AA jaunt, not AAA.

Still, the excursion includes a round-trip flight in business class for lawmakers and their spouses (that alone is worth about $8,000), fine hotels and meals, side trips, and transportation and guides.

It's a good thing that AIPAC is neither a political action committee nor an agent of a foreign government, otherwise our Congressional representatives might not be able to accept this freebie without legal complications. I'm just saying.

Unlike a proper congressional trip, we’re told that the AIPAC foundation “runs [the members] pretty good.”

There will be breakfast speakers, dinner speakers, Q&A’s with U.S. Embassy folks and Israeli media. There will be appearances by government leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (ask him about those recent demonstrations) and President Shimon Peres, as well as by opposition leaders. The schedule is packed from morning to late at night.

But wait. It’ll be okay. Judging from past trips — they’re not giving out the schedule for security reasons — the travelers will get a walking tour of the Old City and the Western Wall, plus a tour of the city, trips to Masada and the Dead Sea, the Holocaust Memorial, a trip north to the Golan Heights and to the border with Lebanon. There will be a couple of days to hang out in Tel Aviv — Miami on the Mediterranean.

At some point, the group will head to the West Bank to chat with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and other leaders. No Hamas folks are invited.

Best of all, unlike codels, these are segregated by party — we’re told the members prefer that. Because there is no need for bipartisan cover to justify a taxpayer-funded jaunt, you won’t need to pretend to like someone from across the aisle.

-- snip --

The U.S. Embassy, oft-beleaguered by congressional trips, won’t need to coordinate logistics. The foundation does that. Still, a former diplomat noted, “The embassy will extend whatever assistance is needed” by the lawmakers — such as security for the trip to Ramallah. “We know who pays for our budget.”

Regarding "whatever assistance is needed" for a trip to Ramallah, well, let's just say that is A WHOLE LOT OF ASSISTANCE. The security part alone will be enormously taxing. Pity the poor RSOs who will have to take groups of 25 to 30 prima donnas and their handlers in and out of the West Bank.

Idle thought: how many Congressmen can you pack into a Suburban? Do they share seats without fighting? Do the freshmen members have to take the middle seats? Who called 'shotgun?' You know that the windows don't roll down, so does everyone have enough A/C, or is that too much, or is the A/C just right? Will this be all business, or more like a torturous family minivan trip to Disney World?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

TSB: Now you've done it! Tipped of the enemy about our divided congress all visiting the war zone! So they attacked! Any casualties yet? gwb