American visitors to a foreign country can be a dangerous thing. When those visitors are somewhat high-ranking officials, extra caution is required. Governor Rick Perry (R-Texas) and party landed in Islamabad this afternoon. Perry was accompanied by Governors Mike Huckabee (R-Arkansas), Jim Doyle (D-Wisconsin) and Dave Freudenthal (D-Wyoming) The composition of the group begged the question of what the relationship was between the men. Answer: no one here knows.
The general consensus was that the Governors' visit was not for any substantive purpose — they had no meetings scheduled with Pakistani officials — but simply "disaster tourism."
Perry himself, though, stood out by always being, well, tardy. He frequently joined the rest of the party about 5 minutes after events had begun. Apparently, this habit is nothing new, and Perry has earned the nickname "Flash," after the superhero of the same name. At Mehra Camp, he lingered in the back of the Chinook helicopter that transported the group for so long that the press, who had arrived in a second Chinook 5 minutes after the first, didn't even notice that they were filming 3 and not 4 governors.
If his clothing was any indication, Perry must have been briefed that the earthquake zone was "kinda like the Rocky Mountains." He wore what can only be described as jogging gear — blue stretch running pants, a zip up shirt that must have had some tremendous wicking power, and even runner's wrap sunglasses. Part way through the trip he added a round ski-cap, thus completing the look he apparently had sought: trail runner outside of Colorado Springs.
The folks at Mehra Camp laid on their customary welcome, though the hype was considerably less than it was for this month's earlier visitor, Sen. John Kerry. Taxpayers in the respective states might be less than thrilled to know that. The rest of us taxpayers should be more upset with the fact that Perry arrived on Air Force Two — unusual for a group of Governors, but indicative of his relationship with the President. Air Force Two costs $20k just to fill up the gas tank.
In what is fast becoming the ritual sign-off during these Mehra camp visits, a group of elders lined up to shake the Governors' hands as they made their way back to the helicopters. One was dressed in traditional kurta, with a Chicago Blackhawks jersey thrown over it. (The Blackhawks? Jeez.). It's difficult to know if there was any understanding at all between the Govdel and the Pakistanis they met. Actually, it was clear that neither party had any clue as to the imporance of he other. To the Americans, these were just Pakistanis. To the Pakistanis, these were just more Americans. Perry oddly bowed low as he clasped the hand of each elder. To his credit, he didn't offer up any sort of "Namaste," as some Congressmen have done.
Flash, by the end of it, was more interested in getting some snaps with his digital camera. "Now how about that photo?" he said, turning his digital camera toward one of his young staffers and showing them a picture of Pakistani children. "That's got National Geographic all over it."