While the blogosphere is getting worked up over the Bush administration’s decision to give handling of the commercial side of several American ports over to a company owned by the government of the United Arab Emirates, there are a couple issues which we think everyone is missing.
First, as with so much else, the White House didn’t think it had to tell anyone about what it was doing. As a “Republican leadership aide” told the Washington Post this morning, “It’s strange that the administration didn’t consult Congress [about the deal] … They might not have had to, but it was going to be a big deal on Capitol Hill. To not know that is mystifying.” Or as the New York Times reported this morning, “Administration officials acknowledged on Tuesday that they had, at least in some ways, mishandled the matter by not briefing members of Congress early enough to avoid the outburst that resulted when the news of the deal was made public.”
It’s enough to remind one of the mishandling of that hunting accident down in Texas last week. That misstep mainly made reporters angry. But now the administration has gone and ticked off Congress, which in an election year might not be such a good idea.
The second issue being lost in the shouting is tied to the first; namely, that this is an election year. If the pundits who parse the administration’s decisions don’t think that everything is going to be a major political issue this year, well, then they’re as tone deaf as they accuse the administration of being. The congressmen who are making noise about the port security deal are also positioning themselves for reelection, and want to appear tough on national security. It’s a game that President Bush himself has played well, but this time around it’s come back to bite him in the more tender regions.
That said, we detect a few different schools of thought in the blogosphere concerning the port deal, some angry at the administration, some angry at the administration’s critics, and some confused by the whole argument. (Though, as far as we could tell, no one brings up the points we mentioned, which seem to be the real driving force behind the scandal.) In the first category we find Marty Peretz — amazingly, not writing about Israel — over at The Plank, writing, “It’s not just that the UAE has a history of hosting the operations of terrorists. It’s also that our ports are notoriously vulnerable to terror, especially given the amount of wholly unmonitored cargo that passes through them. Imagine the horrific possibilities. … Aren’t there American companies that can do this kind of work?”
John Derbyshire at The Corner concurs, writing that “I find myself quietly wondering why, in this huge entrepreneurial nation of ours, there isn’t a home-grown firm capable of putting in a strong bid for the work. Perhaps administering ports is another one of those jobs Americans won’t do …”
Even rabid Bush apologist Hugh Hewitt (he’s in so deep he even supported Harriet Miers) joins the chorus of those unhappy with the deal: “The amount of information that the new company will possess about the operations of the ports that is not generally available to the public,” Hewitt writes in a stilted prose that he does not usually affect, “is one measure of the increased vulnerability that foreign ownership of the ports by a nation with very active al Qaeda cells poses.”
Then you have those, like The Crankfiles, who are angry with anyone who would question the wisdom of the president. Cranky gives us plenty to work with. “This is classic isolationist scare tactic pap cleverly disguised as racist bullshit,” they write. “For over four years, we’ve witnessed the American Left march in lockstep with Osama Bin Laden in his calls to overthrow the Saudi Arabian government because ‘most of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis.’ Nothing gets the Left wired for action like race-based collective punishment . … God help us if America becomes stupid enough to put Jim Crow Democrats in charge of foreign and domestic policy again.”