Vice President-elect Joe Biden is an experienced traveler to the Middle East and South Asia. But his visit to the volatile region this week, ostensibly as the outgoing chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, strikes some observers as a passport to trouble.
Biden met Thursday with leaders in Kuwait before heading east, according to aides. Though no itinerary has been released for Biden and fellow traveler, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the senators are expected to touch down next in Afghanistan, India and Pakistan.
An aide said Biden will make clear he's not speaking on behalf of the outgoing and incoming administration, since he won't be traveling as the vice president-elect.
But the New York Times referred to the trip as "the new administration's first overseas fact-finding trip" and said it "effectively represents the incoming administration's first foray into foreign policy."
Karl Rove, FOX News political analyst and former adviser to President Bush, questioned the timing of the voyage.
"This is a time when he ought to be preparing to become vice president of the United States. It's almost as if he wanted to get a jump, or a leg up, if you will, on Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton," Rove said.
Lisa Curtis, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said foreign leaders will "almost certainly" receive him as the vice president-elect.
"They know very well that he's moving into this very powerful position and that is how I think he will be received in the region," she said.
President-elect Barack Obama has said for weeks that, when it comes to foreign policy, there is one president at a time and he does not want to send conflicting messages to the rest of the world.
"It would be imprudent of me to start sending out signals that somehow we are running foreign policy when I am not legally authorized to do," Obama said Wednesday.
But as tensions between India and Pakistan escalate and fighting between Israel and Palestine rages on, Biden's trip could be perceived as a sign that the incoming administration is priming the foreign policy pump.
On that possibility, two high-ranking former Bush administration aides split.
Rove struggled to find a plausible reason for the trip.
"What is to be gained ... (for) the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who, when within moments of his arrival back to the United States, will no longer be of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee?" he said.
Joe Hagin, former White House deputy chief of staff, said Biden will probably "carry some messages" back to Obama.
"I don't think that's without precedent," he said. "But ... as long as (they) remain as careful as they have been so far, in terms of the one-commander-in-chief theory, I don't see a problem with it."
Obama also plans to meet on Monday with Mexican President Felipe Calderon, as part of what one transition official called a "long-standing tradition" for incoming presidents to "underscore" the relationship between the two countries.
"This meeting is in keeping with that tradition," the aide said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
James Rosen joined FOX News Channel (FNC) in 1999 and is the network’s chief Washington correspondent.