The Washington Post

Tea partyers take a quiet trip to the Middle East

When members of Congress travel abroad on comfy military jets to excellent places — Rome, Paris and such — they naturally try to keep the details under wraps. But when they travel to some not-so-pleasant, even dangerous, places — such as Libya — they are usually much less reticent. (Although the info usually becomes available only after they leave such countries.)

Yet a trip this week by tea party Republican Reps. Michele Bachmann , Steve King and Louie Gohmert has been quite hush-hush, even though they went to iffy places such as Beirut, Cairo and Tripoli — where the U.S. Embassy last week issued a “warning” notice “strongly advis[ing] against all but essential travel to Tripoli and against all travel . . . outside Tripoli because of ongoing instability and violence.”

And, as best we can figure, they even flew commercial, not only to the region but even within the region. They went to embassy briefings and such. So this is hardly a boondoggle. Still, their offices declined to give out any information on the trip as it progressed.

Fortunately, local media and the BBC were on the spot, so everyone in the Middle East knew just where they were.

In Lebanon, the Daily Star reported that ambassador David Hale met them at the airport and that they also met with the country’s justice minister, faith-based nongovernmental groups and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, whom we last wrote about when he was here in 2008, visiting with top Bush administration officials.

We noted then that he was “a hard-line Lebanese Christian militia leader back in the nasty old days when those militias were slaughtering one another and assassinating rival leaders. Geagea had been linked in the media to a number of civil-war-era killings, including those of a pro-Syrian prime minister and a prominent Christian politician.” But by 2008, he was a “statesman,” so now he’s a “leader.”

In Tripoli, the delegation was briefed at the embassy on the general situation in Libya and, of course, on Benghazi, and lawmakers met with a number of senior Libyan officials.

In Cairo, they met with Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, the military coup leader, and interim President Adly Mansour, according to the Daily News Egypt, and talked about the regime’s “road map” to elections. The visit was a follow-up to the trio’s trip to Cairo in September, the paper noted, when they met with Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II.

That was also when they praised the anti-Morsi demonstrations and the military intervention and did a most interesting video blasting the Muslim Brotherhood as a “great evil” and a “terrorist group” — and in which Bachman implied the group was responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

What prisoners?

Former NBA star Dennis Rodman is back in North Korea to arrange a basketball game on Jan. 8, in celebration of the birthday of the guy he calls his “friend for life,” the country’s dictator, Kim Jong Un.

Rodman’s arrival Thursday to make arrangements to bring over 12 former NBA players and to train the North Korean team for the game comes less than a week after Kim had his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, executed.

“I can’t control what they do with their government,” Rodman told the Associated Press. “I can’t control what they say or how they do things here. I’m just trying to come up here a sports figure and try to . . . open the door for a lot of people in the country.”

He described his visits as “basketball diplomacy.”

The United States has been pressing the North Koreans to release American Kenneth Bae, who was arrested in November 2012 on charges of plotting to overthrow the brutal dictatorship. He was sentenced in May to 15 years of hard labor.

But deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Wednesday that Washington had not talked to Rodman about his trip and was not “involved with Mr. Rodman’s visit to North Korea.”

“He is not there representing the United States government,” she said.

Wow! Wouldn’t that be something if “The Worm” — Rodman’s nickname in playing days — were a government envoy?

Cold, but educational

Despite federal cutbacks, there may still be some good, really good jobs out there.

Take, for example, this announcement from the Federal Aviation Administration about “exciting international assignments with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).” That’s a U.N. organization focusing on international aviation safety and security.

Under the section “About the Job,” there’s some general information — a need to like cold weather goes without saying — stemming from the fact that most of the jobs are in ICAO’s headquarters in Montreal.

“Jazz, opera, ballet, film festivals, skiing and auto racing are among the many choices for entertainment or cultural activities in this vibrant city,” the announcement says, not to mention hockey. “A few of the job’s attractions include the diverse working environment, 6 weeks of annual leave and exemption from U.S. and Canadian taxes.” Excellent.

But wait! You also get “reimbursement of educational expenses for your dependent children.”

So even if you don’t like ballet . . .

The blog:
intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.

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