Was Pelosi’s Asian trip nothing more than a taxpayer junket?
I recently wrote a commentary explaining why House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had to maintain her plan to visit Taiwan. However, I did not address whether the original decision to organize a congressional Asian junket at that time was a good idea. The trip to Taipei would have been uneventful if it were not for the belligerent reactions by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Once the schedule was leaked, Xi went bonkers. He repeatedly warned Biden not to allow the stopover in Taiwan. He threatened that it would result in military action – whatever that was supposed to mean at the time. Regardless, the American media joined Xi in going bonkers. Some in the media even speculated that Xi might shoot down Pelosi’s plane. Would this lead to a military confrontation with China – or would Xi use the Pelosi visit as a pretext to attack Taiwan?
Then the Biden administration went bonkers – sending U.S. ships into the South China Sea and the Straits of Taiwan. They gave Pelosi’s plane a jet fighter escort. That is how utterly absurd the situation got.
Xi was not going to attack Taiwan. Nor was he going to shoot down Pelosi’s plane. There would be no military conflict between China and the United States. No invasion of Taiwan. None of that was even in the realm of possibility.
Once Xi made his threats, however, Pelosi had no choice but to complete her itinerary – including the layover in Taiwan. To cave would have been another diplomatic signal that America is no longer the world’s leading nation – but a supplicant to the bullying of international bad actors.
The American image has already been sufficiently damaged by President Biden’s serial weaknesses. And Biden had already made it known that he wanted the visit to Taiwan cancelled – although he could not order it. America needed to push back against Xi’s threats. Thankfully, Pelosi did just that.
But to the larger question: Was the trip necessary in the first place? What was remarkably absent from media reports – and from the Speaker, herself – was the purpose of the trip. What was to be gained? What was achieved? Crickets.
We should first understand that it is illegal for anyone but the President of the United States – or his official emissary — to negotiate agreements or treaties with foreign nations. It is certainly not the role of Congress. Overseas trips by members of Congress are supposed to be “fact-finding” – although most are more for pleasure and prestige than business.
According to the State Department, Pelosi would “focus on mutual security, economic partnership and democratic governance in the Indo-Pacific region.” Whatever that means. We can say with certainty that there were no articulated goals – or “deliverables,” as the diplomats call them. No goals. No deliverables. No achievements.
Joining Pelosi on this her no goals/no achievements tour were Gregory Meeks, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Mark Takano, Chairman of Veterans’ Affairs; Suzan DelBene, Vice Chair of the Ways and Means Committee; Raja Krishnamoorthi, member of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence; and Andy Kim, member of the Armed Services Committee.
They are all Democrats. That is a worthy point since most congressional delegations traveling overseas for legitimate business reasons are bipartisan. Pelosi is not a fan of true bipartisanship – as we see with her Select Committee prosecuting a one-sided case.
If you look at the purpose of the trip as opposed to the controversy it inadvertently created, one could conclude that it was nothing more than a congressional junket – one of those taxpayer trips that enable the privileged members of Congress to visit exotic places … meet powerful people – and enjoy lavish meals.
It also gave Pelosi the image of a powerful world leader. She even got a version of being knighted by Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen. The speaker was inducted into the Order of Propitious Clouds with Special Grand Cordon – Taiwan’s highest civilian honor. (Hmmm. Is the Microsoft Cloud propitious? Probably not.)
From Pelosi’s perspective, that made the entire trip worthwhile. Maybe that was the real reason Pelosi was so damned eager to go to Taiwan. She looked absolutely royal with that wide blue sash across her chest.
No matter the reason, Pelosi created a problem for Biden and the pinstriped pants folks at the State Department. He upset Xi so much that he finally revealed his “military response” by shooting off rockets and missiles like a fourth of July fireworks show. Thankfully, he did not hit anything but merely showed that he could if he wanted to do so.
Pelosi’s overseas junket– and that nice honor from President Tsai — made me wonder if Pelosi is planning for her retirement – especially if Republicans take over the House. The award and the trip – along with her abandonment of bipartisan leadership – has the ring of a person gathering laurels on their way out the door.
We will have to wait and see about that. But with regard to her Asian junket, methinks it was just a taxpayer-funded pleasure trip that inadvertently caused an unnecessary and overblown controversy.
So, there ‘tis.