Sunday, February 26, 2006

Ports and politics

"“The entire case against the Dubai Ports deal is built on nonsense."” -- Larry Kudlow

The Bush administration has come under fire for allowing a British company to sell the management of several ports in the U.S. to a company from the United Arab Emirates. Is there anything at all wrong with such a deal? No, it doesn't look like it. Even Tom Friedman says so.

Indeed, the administration thought it so obvious--and all experts agreed--that this deal was entirely acceptable, even desirable (e.g., the UAE is an important ally in the war on terror that we should support, not discriminate against, when they want to do business with us), that the president wasn't even informed until recently when it became necessary. Given that the deal has nothing at all to do with national security (which remains fully in the hands of Americans), why have Democrats and Republicans alike blindly and savagely denounced it as a threat to our homeland? Politics. Democrats see a chance to make the president look like he doesn't care about our safety (while making Democrats look like they do), and Republicans 1) can't let the perception of GOP strength on defense issues be diminished, and 2) see the political benefit of openly disagreeing with the president. Both groups look like idiots.

Granted, as Oliver North points out, the Bush administration has a long history of communication failure, not properly framing issues and failing to get out their message. This Arab port deal is an issue that can be easily demagogued for political gain, and the administration shouldn't have been caught off guard when it happened. Now the demagogues have the rhetorical advantage, and Bush, though right on the issue, is suffering.

Not that Bush's opponents think they themselves are right on the issue, which, of course, they're not; they're just trying to take down a president by any means necessary. (Or, rather than being evil, they could just be stunningly ignorant or stupid, as I hope is the case with Republicans like Tom DeLay and Bill Frist. What possesses someone to make a grand statement when he knows absolutely nothing?)

It's a shame politics works this way.

More on the Dubai ports deal:

Tony Snow: It's time for cooler heads to prevail
James K. Glassman: Good for America
Wall Street Journal: Ports of Politics
Tim Chapman: Finally, bipartisanship comes to Washington
Mark Alexander: The port of public opinion--derailing this deal might be threat to national security.

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