Apparently, the Vice-President's straight-shooting has thrown the White House off its game; it finds itself back on its heals for the second week in a row, this time trying to defend a recently announced deal permitting the acquisition of the British company that manages six American ports (New York, Newark, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Miami and New Orleans) to a company owned by the government of Dubai, U.A.E.
On its face, the sale may actually be pretty inocuous: the concession to operate the ports was already in foreign hands, albeit English hands. And, for a change, it is always possible that the Bush Administration's assurances that it had reviewed the acquisition and found that security won't be compromised may be accurate. Of course, since the Administration's maniacal penchant for secrecy is in place... it becomes impossible to verify.
But let's face it: the Speaker of the House Hastert and the Senate Majority Leader Frist, along with the Governors Pataki of New York and Ehrlich of Maryland, and Congressmen King and Fossella of New York, Republicans all have expressed opposition ranging from annoyance and uncertainty to outrage. This was obviously not cleared with them. We could very easily be seeing the makings of another Harriet Miers scenario whereby it is Congressional Republicans who, unlilke the President, have to run for reelection this year , who scotch this. Indeed, given the President's weak poll numbers, a veto threat is peculiarly hollow, as, if his own party bolts on him, no one has his back.
Most peculiar, in that the simple sound-bite of "The President is selling our ports to an Arab government" could undermine years of drum-beat mind control lying that "this President is protecting us from terrrrrrrrorists." Given the President's actual policies, such as rounding up thousands of Middle Easterners on minor or made-up immigration charges and other excuses, the maintenance of detention facilities (and some allege torture chambers) at Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, Diego Garcia (thought I forgot that one, huh?) and the CIA ghost prisons of Arabs, and of course, the conflation of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden to justify the Iraq war... well, let's just say that Bush has some 'splaining to do on this one. (Hilariously, I read in this Dave Johnson post that Rush Limbaugh accuses the Democrats of "racism" in opposing this deal... man, Rush, you are so hilarious, that once in a while, I forget that you are a God damned drug abusing criminal who should be in jail for 10-20 years.)
And that's just it. This is a double disaster for the President. He is weakening his one and only selling point, i.e. "security". Just, pray tell, how is "selling our ports to an Arab government"-- indeed, an Arab government whose own port management may have played a role in the Pakistani nuclear arms bazaar that may have resulted in proliferation to North Korea and Iran, if not others-- consistent with the "tough on security" message? It might be-- as I said-- in the great scheme of things, there may be nothing wrong with this deal. But now Bush actually has to rely on nuance and explanations that will take more than, say, a bullying sound-bite... and you know he never does those well. He speaks as if to primary school students-- sometimes to pre-K. The need for the international flow of capital and goods and services and being an open, business friendly nation may pale in comparison to The President is selling our ports to a terrorist Arab government.
You see what I'm saying? We make a mistake if we try to seek explanations, such as the obvious cronyism. I'm saying don't go there. MAKE Bush defend and explain this one. Congress will likely pass some kind of moratorium and hold hearings (he won't veto it; he's yet to veto anything.)
As I said-- easy sound-bite: The President is deliberately selling our ports to a terrorist Arab government with direct ties to Al Qaeda.
You see where this is going: make Bush justify it. He wants this for some reason. Let's see why. Maybe it's a good deal after all. Prove it. And in the meantime, let's keep that sound-bite of "the President is selling out OUR PORTS AND OUR PEOPLE TO AL QAEDA," and let's see him beat that with "nuance."
"On its face, the sale may actually be pretty inocuous: the concession to operate the ports was already in foreign hands, albeit English hands."
British, actually; the company wasn't English; they let Scots and Welsh and Northern Irish work for them, as well. (And plenty of other people, but there's nothing particularly English about P&O at all.)
Posted by Gary Farber at February 24, 2006 10:33 PM