A Reminder: Travel Is Political. Like It or Not, We Will Cover It.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 21, 2021 -- Lessee, what's happened lately? Insurrection, Impeachment and Inauguration all within 14 days. In other words, last thing any of us needs to hear about today is politics. Instead, let's talk about travel:
        Pete Buttegieg, the Transportation Secretary-designate, is testifying in front of the Senate even as I write this. His confirmation depends on their votes, of course.
        Alejandro Mayorkas, whose appointment as Secretary of Homeland Security would give him control of the TSA and Customs and Border Protection agency, is in limbo because he's been blocked by Senator Josh Hawley, the Missouri Republican with 2024 presidential ambitions.
        Wearing a mask is now mandatory on interstate flights, interstate buses, Amtrak and even ferries after President Biden signed an Executive Order today.
        Airlines are rushing to create procedures to check for negative Coronavirus tests so travelers on international flights to the United States won't run afoul of CDC rules promulgated last week. All this must to be done by Tuesday (January 26), when the CDC mandate is effective.
        On its way out the door, the Trump Administration attempted to lift its ban on travel between the United States, Brazil and many European nations. But since the Biden Administration is now in control, it refused to implement Trump's edict.

Hey, wait a minute, all that stuff sounds suspiciously like politics. I said we'd be talking about travel.

Funny how that works, eh? You start talking about travel and faster than some government bureaucrat can promulgate a new regulation, you're talking about politics.

This should not surprise you. Travel is an intensely political activity. Politics and travel are, in fact, indivisible. You can't talk about one without the other.

International flights? Impossible without a bilateral aviation treaty literally approved by the president. And, now, of course dependent on how governments are handling the pandemic.

Your passport and visas? Issued by the government. Letters of transit? Signed by De Gaulle himself and they cannot be rescinded or even questioned.

American airports? Built by your local government, buffeted by politics local, national and international.

Until a few decades ago, the airlines in almost all nations were owned by their governments. Far too many remain the aeronautic expression of their rulers. Our own airlines continue to suck at the taxpayer teat in case you missed the two outrageous Coronavirus bailouts last year.

The U.S. government owns Amtrak, our national rail service. Want to build a hotel? Talk to the local municipality for all sorts of permits--and tax breaks. The federal government controls airport security, regulates motorcoach lines and investigates air and land crashes.

We have an interstate highway system because Dwight D. Eisenhower decided that we should have it. The U.S. government claimed hubs at Tokyo and Frankfurt for U.S. airlines as the spoils of World War II. President Trump seemed most annoyed about the Iraq war because we didn't take its oil as the spoils of that spoiled war. On the other hand, Biden is an internationalist and yesterday he rejoined the Paris climate change agreement and the World Health Organization. Both of those political operations will impact how we travel today, tomorrow and in the future.

Ever been to Cuba? I haven't because the United States government until 2016 essentially said I couldn't. Why? We were in a political pissing match with Castro for more than 50 years. President Obama changed the rules to allow us to travel there. President Trump clamped down again. Those were both political calculations.

Ever been to North Korea? I should have gone years ago when David Rowell sponsored a trip because the current nut-job ruler has made it impossible. Iran? Never been because business travel withered after the country's fake-religious autocrats ordered the 1979 attack on our Embassy. Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi personally ordered the downing of Pan Am 103 in 1988. As recently as last month, then-Attorney General William Barr was handing down indictments in the case.

Over the years, the intertwining reality of travel and politics wasn't all that controversial. In Joe Sent Me's 20-year history, we covered George W. Bush and Barack Obama and their travel-impacting acts and policies with the same jaundiced eye. From time to time, a member kicked about what we might have said or how we might have interpreted something. But everyone understood travel and politics were often one and the same.

It wasn't until Donald J. Trump barreled into the White House that some members were shocked--shocked!--to learn that travel and politics were two sides of the same government coin. Some went berserk when we called out his "Muslim travel ban." No matter that we were right and Trump went through numerous iterations of the policy before it passed Constitutional muster. Like the mythical letters of transit in Casablanca, Trump could not be questioned. Some members left in a huff because we did.

So be it. I respect people who talk with their wallet rather than just flap their gums. Just as I don't regret how Joe Sent Me covered Bush and Obama, I don't regret how we covered Trump. We work to tell you the truth. How you deal with the truth is your business, but we will not bend it to your--or my--preferred political agenda.

I tell you this not to rehash the Trump era. I tell you this because we are a day into the Biden era and I want you to know what our policy is: We'll cover Biden and his people and his Administration's actions the same way we covered his predecessors.

If it is good for travel, we'll applaud Biden. If it is bad for our ability to travel, we will condemn it. Loudly. Clearly. Without fear of your response. Without regard to anyone's political leanings.

As I told you within the first few days of the Trump Administration, travel and politics are inextricably intertwined. We cover travel, so we'll cover the political angles of it, too. We'll do it as fairly as we can, as clearly as we can.

But certainly we're biased. Biased on the side of travelers. That's neither a Republican nor Democratic bias. Neither a conservative nor liberal bias.

And, that, as Forrest Gump once said, is all I have to say about that.

Oh, except this: Yesterday, Biden signed an Executive Order overturning Trump's Muslim travel ban, which was also an Executive Order.