Dubya's Dubai Delinquency
No political party can long pursue advantage at the expense of public honor or by rude and indecent methods without protest and fatal disaffection in its own body.
Inaugural Address of Presidents Benjamin Harrison, March 4, 1889
Porcupine had predicted that the Dubai ports deal would be another 'Miers Moment' for the Administration (see HERE) and that conservative and Republican reaction would scuttle this deal. Once again, the Blogosphere proved that it can change policy and ideas in vast numbers of people, some of them elected officials with the power to effect change.
Despite the fact that Speaker Hastert and Sen. Frist both stood up to Bush's threat to veto any change in the deal, a congressional Republican leadership aide said that among congressional Republicans "there was a certain level of outrage about how the whole matter was handled by the administration." (Historical note - quick - can you think of a time that Tip O'Neill told Jimmy Carter he would override his veto the last time the Democrats held all three branches of the Executive and Legislative?) And yet why would it have been handled any differently? The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, headed by Snow, had approved the deal in a routine, quiet manner, and both Bush nor Snow had learned about it only after it was approved. This was a routine business decision being made to sell assets, only some of which were in America. The real scandal happened in 1999, while the press was asleep at the switch.
The Peninsular & Oriental Company (fascinating web site (HERE) purchased the rights to operate six east coast ports towards the end of the Clinton Administration. Our west coast port operations were sold to the Chinese at around the same time. This was an effort at globalization and pleasing our major trading partners. What problem could there be with Britain running our port operations, and poking the recalcitrant Teamsters in the eye, and as for the Chinese, hey, they were over that Mao thing - and good donors, too. It was never contemplated that one day - the operation could be sold by this private company to a state owned one that may or may not be our friend.
That is the delinquency. From September 12, 2001, or at least since the creation of the Homeland Security Department, we should have placed the operation of these ports into United States hands. Yes, we still own the real estate underneath the ports, but the personnel, operations and policies have all been set by P&O, and would be by their successors. Like our borders, we need to be able to verify who is entering our country - be it by land, air or sea. Merely because airplanes were the method of attack in the 9/11 events does not mean that they will remain so, despite the obsession wiht airport security. Porcupine worries more about the border between Canada and Maine - utterly unpoliced and somewhat untrackable.
The President is exasperated. "In order to win the war on terror, we have got to strengthen our relationships and friendships with moderate Arab countries in the Middle East," said Bush. This is perfectly true. However, the port deal is not the right way to do it. Indeed, are Americans even aware that the sale of operations from P&O to Dubai involved seventeen ports - some of them in nations that are clearly unfriendly like Malaysia and Pakistan - and that the other eleven transactions have already gone ahead? Who will be examining the cargos being shipped from there to San Francisco or Tampa?