If There's a Fact at Machu Picchu, Senators Will Find It
Harry Reid! The boxer from Searchlight, Nev.! You're the designated Senate majority leader. What are you going to do?
"I'm going to . . . Machu Picchu!"
Yes, indeed, the Nevada Democrat will continue the grand tradition of America's lawmakers traveling across the globe in search of elusive facts -- even if it means spending Easter Sunday at the Vatican or, in this case, spending New Year's Eve at the fabled lost city of the Incas, high in the Andes mountains.
Even before formal assumption of his new title on Jan. 3, Reid is scheduled to lead a group of intrepid senators, set to depart right after Christmas, to La Paz, Bolivia, then to Quito, Ecuador, and then to Cuzco, the jump-off city for Machu Picchu -- Peru's 15th-century wonder and a popular tourist spot.
The hardy group -- about 25 strong -- includes Sens. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), Ken Salazar (D-Colo.), Robert F. Bennett (R-Utah) and Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), plus spouses, Senate aides and military escorts, we're told.
The reason for this trip? Lots of meetings with government officials. "There are critical security and economic issues with all three of these countries that members are anxious to hear more about," said Reid spokesman James Manley. There's economic issues, trade, narcotics enforcement and lots of stuff to discuss. You betcha.
Can't be done by phone, only in person. And no better way to do that than by flying on a military jet, where you never have to touch your baggage, fuss with cabs, worry about where to dine or rush to make your next flight. It's like having your own plane!
What's more, there's always a military aide or Foreign Service officer available to meet your every need. They, along with foreign ministry officials in each country, are always delighted to have the opportunity to cancel vacation plans with their families just to help you.
We're told that the group will not be staying at the spectacular Sanctuary Lodge, adjacent to the ruins, with panoramic views from the rooms. That's $1,000 a night, and we understand the Machu Picchu leg is coming out of each traveler's pocket.
Inexplicably, no one is scheduled to visit the extraordinary Galapagos Islands, which lie just a few hundred miles off the Ecuadoran coast. The delegation apparently doesn't know that the most secretive facts winter on the islands.
Their Man in Washington
Washington, stunned by the abrupt departure Monday of Prince Turki al-Faisal, the highly regarded Saudi ambassador to the United States, recovered enough by yesterday to begin talking about a successor. Turki had been here only 15 months.
Early buzz is putting Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud -- that is, grandson of Abdul Aziz, the founder of Saudi Arabia, high on the list to replace Turki.