Looking for political cover in the wake of Dubaigate, the House passes a $7.4 billion port security bill 421-2, with money included for “new port security inspectors, nuclear weapons screening and the development of an automated system to pinpoint high-risk cargo. The 421 to 2 vote came just hours after the White House expressed strong misgivings over the cost and feasibility of the bill.“
“‘He has no political capital,’ said Tony Fabrizio, a Republican pollster. ‘Slowly but surely it’s been unraveling. There’s been a direct correlation between the trajectory of his approval numbers and the — I don’t want to call it disloyalty — the independence on the part of the Republicans in Congress.‘” In the wake of Dubaigate, Dubya gets more of the “Incredible Shrinking President” treatment from the rest of the GOP. If it quacks like a lameduck… (And, for those of y’all who think I’ll never say anything nice about Dubya, I would have agreed with you until very recently — but I actually think his post-Dubaigate remarks today were on target.)
Soon after GOP leaders tell Dubya the port deal is dead, Dubai Ports World pull the plug themselves by announcing they will divest all American interests, including operation of the six ports in question. Well, I guess it’s healthy to see Congress finally stand up to Dubya…but, frankly, this Dubai takeover has been a sideshow issue from the beginning. If only our reps demonstrated a similar spine on any number of other, more significant administration policies: the NSA wiretaps, the Patriot Act, prewar intelligence, our newfound proclivity to torture, bankruptcy legislation, you name it…including the still-extant question of port security.
“‘Listen, this is a very big political problem,’ said House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), explaining that he had to give his rank-and-file members a chance to vote. ‘There are two things that go on in this town. We do public policy, and we do politics. And you know, most bills at the end of the day, the politics and the policy kind of come together, but not always. And we are into one of these situations where this has become a very hot political potato.’” Content to curl up like lapdogs when civil liberties are on the table, Republicans remain livid over Dubaigate, with House leaders setting up a voice vote to kill the port deal in the next few days. Update: It has begun — the House Appropriations Committee votes 62-2 to add a block of the deal to a war funding measure.
“A behind-the-scenes reconstruction of the ports deal’s rapid evolution from obscurity to uproar shows how Bush was blindsided by the same emotion-laden politics of terrorism that he used to win elections in 2002 and 2004. It also raises anew questions of why the White House message machine, so sharply effective in the first term, seemingly has gone dull in the second.” As the Dubai Port World deal goes under 45-day review, the Post assesses the Dubya administration’s dismal PR performance during Dubaigate.
“There are many, many problems that we face in maritime security — and they’re not the United Arab Emirates.” Dubaigate continues to have legs, with both parties in an uproar and the port takeover now on hold so Dubya can convince Congress it’s a good idea (or at the very least get his story straight.) Well, as Dan Froomkin noted, inasmuch as this story draws attention to the broader issues of outsourcing, port security, and questionable White House decisionmaking, I’m all for it. But, given all the shadiness this administration has been up to of late, I’m a bit surprised that this relatively innocuous UAE deal has blown up as it has. (I mean, when Dubya recently decided he’d eviscerate our constitutional system of checks and balances, the Senate just rolled over.) Well, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, I suppose.
Members of both parties, including now the GOP governors of New York and Maryland, question government approval of the sale of a British port security firm (which operates six major U.S. ports) to Dubai Ports World, a company based in the United Arab Emirates. “Dubai Ports will not ‘own’ the U.S. facilities, but will inherit the P&O’s contracts to run them, with no changes in the dockside personnel or the U.S. government security operations that currently apply to them.” Hmm. The transaction should be looked at carefully, sure, but, as the TIME article notes, the fact that this company is based in Dubai is much less important than the broader issue of port security standards. Update: Strange bedfellows: Carter backs Dubya, Frist doesn’t. Update 2: Port security link via Medley.
As if the revelations of Syria’s role in the Hariri assassination weren’t disturbing enough, now the recently-elected president of Iran, a state with nuclear ambitions, is making nightmarish and freakshow statements reasserting the goal of Israel’s destruction. With rhetoric escalating and five years of Dubya’s “with-us-or-against-us” diplomacy helping to shore up hardliners across the Middle East, it seems Iraq may soon be the least of our problems in the region.