Monday, February 27, 2006

Thoughts on the ports deal

With the offer by Dubai Ports to accommodate both a delay for additional review and the addition of what amounts to an American holding company to insulate the operations in the US from the UAE-based company executives, this whole issue has cooled off considerably. I trust this incident will lay to rest any arguments remaining that all Republicans and conservatives are nothing more than “yes-men” for the President?

One of the arguments advanced in defense of the original deal was that anyone standing in opposition to it was only doing so because it was an Arab company. Some came right out and slapped the “racist” label on such folks while others merely left the accusation hanging in the air. To make such an accusation is to belittle the very real concerns based upon the actions and associations of the UAE with regard to terror groups in the past. That’s not to mention the verifiable presence of people there who are - shall we say? - sympathetic with our enemies’ goals and methods. I think it’s quite easy to be more concerned about this transaction than one would be were the company Australian and not be racist.

That said, I have some questions for the people who are opposed to this deal:

  1. What does Dubai Ports have to do to be able to complete this deal, in your eyes? Is there a set of conditions they can meet to win your approval?

  2. Are you advocating that any foreign firm currently under contract at one of our Nation’s ports be subject to the same conditions? If so, and they fail to meet them, are you prepared to lobby as aggressively for their removal?

It would be nice to have a reasoned debate on this topic, given that it’s an important one. I would like to point out, however, that the Bush Administration seemed tone-deaf to the aggitation this deal caused. Were I on the President’s staff, I’d be asking the committee who approved this deal in the first place what they were thinking in doing so without notifying the White House well in advance. It’s just not that hard to see that such a deal would carry with it an emotive content. The deal, properly explained away from the induced hysteria that the initial “they’re selling our ports to Arabs” reports caused, would have been far more easily understood. I think it would have generated less opposition. An explanation in advance of those reports would certainly have avoided the Republican backlash in Congress.

The President himself only made matters worse by stepping up and threatening a veto, the first one of his tenure. How, exactly, did he expect Congress to react? I think they reacted in a completely predictable manner and the President should have seen it coming.

I guess we’ll wait for the completion of the re-review and go from there.