Why do politicians take junkets?

Inspired by this story. Four members of Congress traveled to Iraq and their plane was fired upon on their way home. What is the purpose of these trips? Senator Inhofe is my senator and although I’m a Republican, I can’t stand the man. Even if I did like him, this would not help him in my eyes. If I were a Democrat, this foolishness wouldn’t help either. Do congressmen really need to travel to far away lands and see things first hand? It’s hard to believe that they’ll see the “real” Iraq when they get there.

Would you prefer that your elected representatives stay in Washington year-round and never return to your district to see what’s going on with their own eyes? They obviously have people in your state to write memos and make phone calls to tell the congressman what’s going on. Why do they need to see it with their own eyes?

They go for the chance to let someone else pay for something.
Of course they enjoy travel, plus the little ribbon they get on their dress uniform, always impressive when they want to debate international affairs.
It’s not called Junket (a dessert) for nothing.

That’s not a junket; that’s a fact-finding mission. :slight_smile:

Seriously, though, there’s nothing like seeing the situation with your own eyes and talking to the people on the ground.

Now if you’d asked why they were going to somewhere like Cancun, you might have a point.

Sometimes they do that, too. They call it a “conference” and have a party at taxpayer expense. What the hey! It’s safer than actually going to Iraq.

I think they do need to see things first hand. Whenever I travel I am amazed by the attitudes and ideas I brought with me.
I watch the non-US news on cable and it’s amazing how much you can learn that way even.
I watch the BBC, Deutsche Welle, Russian Today, Pan-African News and Asia News.
Not only do they have different takes on world events, but they define world news differently. They worry about things we never hear in American sources.
So I often wonder how congressmen can do things that effect the world if they don’t know much about it.

Because they are:

A: Fat
B: Cats

If I were a politician looking for a comfortable “junket”, then Iraq is about the last place that I would choose. I have no doubt that these members of Congress were genuinely interested in learning what is going on in Iraq, and perhaps also in showing that they have an interest in the Iraq problem. Whether they would be able to actually learn much is another issue, since they would stay under heavy guard in areas well-secured by US troops, and would probably not spend much time talking to locals (even if they could speak Arabic) – but they did not choose to take a comfortable summer vacation.

Former Senate staffer here, so I can offer some inside perspective: basically, travel lets you see first-hand the issues you are dealing with. It’s one thing to read about the safety standards in the nuclear industry, for instance; it’s another to actually travel to a nuclear power plant and see it with your own eyes (just an example from a trip I took).

These trips are usually far from being exotic. Most of them are paid for by interest groups. These groups are spending a lot of money to educate you on their issues. That means they don’t want you sitting around doing nothing. The trips I went on were to quite non-exotic places (Houston, Texas, for instance) and involved getting up very early, trekking around a variety of locations all day, and going to bed very late. They were interesting and quite informative. But they were not a form of bribery or a vacation.

Definitely. Better to see things first hand than to always rely on simply reading it in a report or filtered through some staffer.

Maybe not. But I’m guessing they will see more than had they stayed at home and watched TV. Even if their view is skewed due to the security restrictions on them (or if you like, skewed because they are being spoon fed info), its got some value just seeing things through their own eyes.

-XT