The Washington Post

Skinny-dipping congressmen hardly the first ‘ugly Americans’ abroad

The Hotel El Caribe in Cartagena, Colombia was the site of a Secret Service scandal. (Pedro Mendoza/Associated Press)

Those Republicans skinny-dipping and carousing while traveling in Israel might be causing a collective pearl-clutch, but they’re hardly the first Washington exports to behave badly abroad.

Plenty of others before them — including those on taxpayer funded trips and assorted other official fact-finding missions — have helped cement long-standing stereotypes of the “ugly American.” To wit:

— Earlier this year, a rowdy group of Secret Service agents traveling to Colombia ahead of President Obama hired hookers at their hotel after a night of drinking and visits to a strip club. The band of misbehaving (though not law-breaking, as prostitution is legal there) fellows was only busted when one of the gentlemen (ahem) argued over payment.

— While on a 2004 trip to Kazakhstan, then-Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) reportedly drank several shots of vodka, then fell off a horse, breaking at least one rib. He also reportedly referred to the natives there as “coneheads.”

— It’s not uncommon for lawmakers to travel with spouses, but on one diplomatic trip to South Korea, then-Sen. Bob Toricelli brought along an unusual companion: one of his biggest donors. “The Torch” reportedly invited New Jersey businessman David Chang to a 1999 meeting set up for him and the South Korean finance minister in an attempt to help Chang buy an insurance company from the South Korean government.

— It might be a minor infraction, but our colleague Karen Tumulty busted then-Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) for puffing on an Cuban cigar while on a jaunt to Jerusalem in 2003. Delay had previously railed against Cuban smokes (for supporting the communist government there), but he seemed to be enjoying the pricey stogie in a photo snapped during the trip with the Republican Jewish Coalition. What happens in Jerusalem...

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.


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