There’s an old joke about a guy who sees an attractive woman at a cocktail party. He says to her, “Would you sleep with me for a million bucks?” She looks him over and says, “Sure.” He replies, “Okay, how about for twenty?” She retorts, “Hell, no; what do you think I am?” He says, “We’ve already established that. Now we’re just negotiating over the price.”
That came to mind when I read this piece in the Tampa Bay Times:
Top aides to Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, two of the most vehement anti-Communist voices in Washington, took an all expenses paid trip to China this month courtesy of the Chinese government.
Sally Canfield, deputy chief of staff to Rubio, and Arthur Estopinan, chief of staff to Ros-Lehtinen, were part of a congressional staff trip facilitated by the U.S.-Asia Institute.
The trips, which include meetings with government officials in Beijing, have occurred since 1985, involving hundreds of lawmakers and staffers. They are a popular perk on Capitol Hill and come with luxury hotel stays and visits to top tourist sites, including the Great Wall. The cost can exceed $10,000 a person.
The Rubio and Ros-Lehtinen connection stands out because of their strong anti-Communism views. Both Cuban-American lawmakers have condemned the human rights records of China and Cuba and have opposed efforts to lift the U.S. embargo on Cuba. They also regularly criticize people who have gone to Cuba.
The Tampa Bay Times learned of the aides’ visits — which have not yet shown up in Senate or House disclosures — from a source backing a group that wants to see more normal relations with Cuba.
“It represents a real double standard,” said Chris Sabatini, senior policy director of the Americas Society and Council of the Americas, when the Times told him about the trips. “At the same time they are denying citizens’ right to travel to Cuba, they feel staff can travel to another country that has the same pattern of human rights abuses.”
Rubio’s spokesman Alex Conant wrote: “Senator Rubio has consistently condemned the totalitarian nature of the Chinese government, its record of systematic human rights violations and its illegitimate territorial claims. However, China is the most populous nation on earth, has the world’s second largest economy, has a significant nuclear weapons arsenal and is increasingly an economic competitor of the United States.
In other words, China paid for everything, including accommodations, travel, meals, and who knows what else, while if you took a trip to Cuba at the invitation of that government, bring your own soap. A million bucks or twenty makes all the difference.