Upon hearing that 20% of the US Congress would be spending their summer recess in Israel on a trip paid for by the American Israel Education Foundation despite the ridiculous economic crisis at home, Stephen Walt lets loose on the “Greatest Elected Body That Money Can Buy”:
Just when you think your contempt for Congress could not get any higher, our elected representatives manage to do something to ratchet it up another notch. After congressional shenanigans helped spark a major market sell-off and sparked fears of a double-dip recession, you’d think every single one of them would be heading back to their districts to figure out what their constituents wanted and to try to explain how they were going to help make things better. Or maybe a few of them would even spend the recess taking a crash course in macroeconomics and public finance, so that they could start exercising their public duties more responsibly.
But what did 81 of them decide to do instead? You guessed it: they are off on junkets to Israel, paid for by the American Israel Education Foundation, an AIPAC spinoff that has been funding such trips for years. That’s right: during the August recess nearly a fifth of the U.S. Congress will visit a single country whose entire population is less than that of New York City.
Such behavior is especially disturbing in light of our current woes; even Greta Van Susteren of Fox News found it appalling (h/t Mondoweisshere and here). But it’s not really a new pattern: in recent decades about 10 percent of all Congressional trips overseas have been to Israel, even though it is only one of the nearly 200 countries in the world.
Why do Congresspersons do this, especially at a moment when it is obvious that they ought to be worrying about conditions here at home? Mostly because such junkets burnish a legislator’s ‘pro-Israel’ credentials and facilitate campaign fundraising. Such trips also expose these visitors to the policy preferences and basic worldview of Israel’s leaders, which is of course why AIEF pays for them.
Reminds me of why I like the guy. Not only did he write the hugely controversial (and unquestionably true) book on the Israeli lobby in the US and is on everyone’s must-read list of realist thinkers, but the man is not afraid to say it how it is. People should be furious at Congress for driving the US economy down the drain. People should perhaps be more furious that these same folks are pandering to a foreign country instead of cleaning up their mess.
Photo from The Atlantic Wire