Reid to Miss Ford Funeral for Andean Junket

Harry Reid is leading a group of Senators on a little trip to the Andes and will miss the events scheduled to honor former President Ford.

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will miss the state funeral for former President Gerald Ford at the Capitol Rotunda on Saturday night, opting instead to lead a delegation to South America with an expected stop at the Machu Picchu Inca ruins.

Reid, D-Nev., left Wednesday afternoon from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland with a bipartisan group of five other senators, including Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the incoming assistant majority leader, for what has been described as a weeklong visit to Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru. The highlight of the trip is said to be separate meetings with the presidents of the three nations, with the last one scheduled in Peru on Tuesday afternoon. “They would be difficult to cancel,” Reid spokesman Jim Manley said via mobile phone as the congressional delegation took off in a U.S. military plane.

[…]

Other senators making the trip are Kent Conrad, D-N.D., Judd Gregg, R-N.H., Robert Bennett, R-Utah, and Ken Salazar, D-Colo.

Several in the blogosphere are incensed by this. Hugh Hewitt demands that they “Turn. The. Plane. Around.” Ed Morrissey calls it a “classless act” and says the Senators “should be ashamed of themselves.” Kim Priestap thinks it “disrespectful, not to mention classless.” Some of their commenters are less kind.

I’m afraid I can’t get worked up about this. Ford was 93 and left the presidency–to which he was not elected–thirty years ago. So what if some Senators miss his funeral?

While there’s certainly a vacation feel to the trip, with the visit to Machu Picchu, there does appear to be quite a bit of actual business taking place here, too. Oddly, both the Senate and House websites are inaccessible at the moment, so I’m unable to look up the committee assignments of the gentlemen attending. Still, as a general rule, its a good thing for Members of Congress to travel abroad, meet with foreign leaders, and become more familiar with the customs and concerns of other countries. After all, they are charged with an oversight and advisory role in foreign affairs.

Could the visit have been rescheduled? Perhaps. I’m not sure how tightly scheduled the presidents of Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru are. It might be difficult, though, to line them all up for visits in such a short time span, especially during a period when the Congress is on break.

UPDATE: Steven Taylor, who knows something about Andean politics, agrees and observes that:

[W]e have recently signed a free trade agreement with both Peru and Ecuador, but are having some issues with Ecuador that need to be sorted out and it behooves us to foster good relations with both Bolivia and Ecuador, as both have pro-Chavez presidents. There are also issues of our anti-drug policies in the region, especially in Peru and Bolivia. Given the general neglect of the region by our foreign policy in recent years, there are some positive aspects of the trip, regardless of the funeral.

I reserve the right to get irritated with Harry Reid and, indeed, expect I will exercise it with some frequency in the next two years. Let’s wait until he does something that’s actually objectionable first, shall we?

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Triumph says:

    I’m not sure how tightly scheduled the presidents of Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru are.

    Yes, I am sure that these leaders of large, complex executive bureaucracies do nothing but sit around sipping rum waiting on foreign dignitaries to visit.

    They are just stupid third world countries, after all.

  2. Bill says:

    James,

    I agree with you on Reid, but the reaction from much of the blogosphere is predictable. Take a favorite conservative punching bag( Cynthia McKinney, Jimmy Carter, Ward Churchill, Just about anyone of the Muslim faith etc etc)sprinkle in even the slightest of disagreements or out of step action and all of sudden half the bloggers on the right are piling on to the person. Think of it, how many times have we seen this happen?

    Bill

  3. Bill says:

    Make that ‘Islamic faith’. Tells you how much I talk about the subject at TFM. I prefer giving out Knucklehead awards.

  4. Ugh says:

    I find these state funerals for Presidents odd and too closely resembling royalty, for my taste.

  5. James Joyner says:

    Ugh:

    Presidents are, in addition to their primary role as head of government, the defacto head of state. As such, their funerals are symbolic occasions for the nation, not just the morning of a former politician.

    As such, I get the argument Ed and others make about why it’s important for Reid and others to go. I just think, under these circumstances, it’s reasonable enough to prioritize a foreign policy trip.