Haven’t made any plans for the Fourth? Want to serve your country in style?
Then sign up now immediately to join a congressional delegation (codel) headed to lovely Monaco from July 5 to 9 to attend the yearly parliamentary conference of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
In years past, a dozen or so lawmakers would attend. But that’s dropped off. This year, no Senators are going, and only two House members — Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who chairs the House commission that coordinates OSCE matters and perhaps commission member Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), along with up to four aides, may go.
So why aren’t more U.S. lawmakers going?
“The Americans are not coming,” OSCE Secretary General Spencer Oliver said when we returned his call from his office in Copenhagen, “because they are afraid of you.”
Moi? That’s ridiculous.
But Oliver — yes, Nixon bugged his Watergate office phone 40 years ago when he was chairman of the Association of Democratic State Chairmen —called us to insist it was so.
Seems word got out a couple weeks ago that we were looking into the trip, he said, and “people who were saying they might be coming all dropped out. . . . They are not coming because of you.”
Sparse turnout presents a grave problem: Only one or two members means no military jet. No military jet means spouses won’t go. (They can tag along for free as long as it’s “no expense to the government.”)
By way of background, the 55-nation OSCE, is not nearly as well known or as important to U.S. policy as, say, NATO or the European Union. Some dismiss it as just another useless Euro-gabfest.
But it is nonetheless a player in promoting democratic reforms and human rights, overseeing elections and other matters, especially in Eastern Europe and most especially in the 11 new democracies (and not-quite-democracies) that were once part of the Soviet Union. (The OSCE began during Bush I to help deal with the implications of the Soviet break-up.)
“This is not a boondoggle,” Oliver said. “These guys come and work.”
In which case, no need to worry about voter anger spurred by a lawmakers’ trip to a meeting on the French Riviera in these tight budget times .
Why spectacular gambling mecca Monaco, at three-quarters a square mile the second-smallest country in the world (smallest is the Vatican), population 36,000?
Because the venue rotates among the OSCE members, and “it was Monaco’s turn,” Oliver explained.
Of course, some voters might be put off by the accommodations we hear are being arranged at the spectacular Fairmont Monte Carlo.
The cheapest rooms run around $600 a night, but we hear the resort is offering a special rate of around $400 or even lower. But that’s still about $100 more than the State Department’s total per diem rate.
Oh, wait! Looks like the State Department just the other day bumped the rate to $634 a day — higher than for Tokyo, London, Rome or Paris.
Then there’s the usual government “control officer,” and a control room to advance and schedule your stay, and a cashier to take care of monetary matters.
So please, please sign up. There are obvious benefits to U.S. lawmakers mingling with lawmakers from other countries, getting resolutions passed urging member states to pass laws cracking down on human trafficking and such.
Did we mention the breathtaking views of the Mediterranean?