Friday, February 24, 2006

If you care...

For the most part, I do my best to defend the Bush administration when I think they’re getting treated unfairly in the media — but there are times when even I’m left drop-jawed and speechless.

If you haven’t been watching the news lately (and I wouldn’t blame you if you haven’t…) there’s been a deal reached that would cede control of several American ports to a company owned by the Uni+ed Arab Emira+es.

For what it’s worth, the company would only be handling the business management aspect of the ports and would have nothing to do with security or customs. Those duties will still be handled by the U.S. government. Not that that’s all that comforting — as the security at our ports is laughably-bordering-on-criminally negligent — but it’s worth noting. All that said, the information regarding the management of our ports is rather sensitive, making quite important those upon which we bestow such knowledge.

The ports have thus far been run by a British company, so one of the administration’s arguments has been ‘If it’s ok for a British company to run our ports, it should be ok for an Arab company to run our ports.’ Really? Is that the best justification we can muster? Some sort of backdoor implication of xenophobia? Come on.

Let’s think about this — there’s Britain, an historical ally and Western democracy. And then there’s the UAE…Johnny-come-lately “ally” with ties to 9/11 and non-Democratic. Hmm…sounds a lot like Saudi Arabia, and I don’t see anyone eager to turn control of our ports over to them.

The fact of the matter is that there is a difference between a British company and an Arab company. Pretending that they’re the one in the same is just asinine.

What’s most curious about this whole thing, at least to me, is President Bush’s willingness to go to the wall over this. He’s already threatened to veto any legislation that would block the deal and has questioned the motives of critics of the deal.

I understand the public relations quandary this poses. When we’re trying so hard to improve our image in the Arab world, it’s certainly less than optimal to have a deal blocked simply because it originates in the Middle East. But on the other hand, the situation surrounding the deal at least gives the appearance of suspicion. And while I’m not cynical enough to believe that there is something nefarious at work here, it would be nice if the administration could offer a little more explanation on the matter than “trust us.” The more I learn about the deal, the less I worry about it, but the more it seems suspicious. I, and I think many people, would like a little more clarification to resolve those two feelings.

I suppose it’s a common characteristic of lame duck presidencies, but since President Bush doesn’t have to face reelection he’s substantially less concerned about public sentiment than are his congressional allies. But since the deal is — at least currently — wildly unpopular politically, there is going to be a great deal of opposition to the president even within the Republican party. If he president wants to avoid this, he needs a major PR campaign.

Elections 2006 side note: The Democrats have seized this issue as an opportunity to appear more hawkish than the president on national security. I’m afraid this could backfire, but I’m ok with that. As more is learned about this deal, I think American public opinion will moderate and the Democrats will be left looking like they over reacted. So, yet again, the Democrats whiff the hanging slider, drop the pass in the endzone, don’t score on the power play (yeah that’s right, I used a hockey analogy) or whatever else. A lot of liberals I know are so excited about the midterm elections because they think they’re going to clean up, especially in the house. But if the Democrats keep doing things like this, they’re going to be very disappointed.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Power Play, you mean.

2:38 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

Duly noted and corrected. That's the problem with blogs...they are forever frozen in the land of the First Drafts.

4:53 PM  
Anonymous Michelle said...

It has been a bit infuriating that liberals have a legitimate gripe against the President right now. I've been rather happy with our President's job performance overall. The port thing is especially scary to me because some of the ports in question are ones my sailor sweetheart will be stopping at in the not so distant future. With the USS Cole attacker free and with all this crap going down, I'm a bit worried about him when he does go into port. He's safer overall on the ship than I am at home while the ship is at sea. I rarely fear for his safety. Now I do. I can't understand why on earth this would be allowed. It makes no sense. The President hasn't led us wrong when it comes to national security before though. I hope he hasn't somehow lost his sense of direction with this deal.

10:54 PM  

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