Bush: Port Deal Collapse Sends Bad Message
By Liz Sidoti
Associated Press (March 10, 2006)
WASHINGTON -- President Bush said Friday he was troubled by the political storm that forced the reversal of a deal allowing a company in Dubai to take over take over operations of six American ports, saying it sent a bad message to U.S. allies in the Middle East.
Bush said the United States needs moderate allies in the Arab world, like the United Arab Emirates, to win the global war on terrorism.
Bungled deal overshadowed GOP agenda
By Stephen Dinan
THE WASHINGTON TIMES (March 10, 2006)
The ports deal was bungled from the beginning, but it became doomed after congressional offices were flooded with calls and the news began to crowd out the rest of Republicans' agenda.
Both headlines above are correct. It's early, but the collapse of the Dubai ports deal appears to be bad for our country. All signs are that the UAE, of which Dubai is part, is the kind of pro-American, relatively open and sensible, Arab/Muslim country of which there are too few. In a word, an ally, an asset.
And they just got kicked in the teeth.
This will not help their cooperation, but it will give the quislings an argument: "See what sticking with the U.S. gets you; better to keep your distance."
This may well have economic consequences, too. The whole world accepts our dollars in payment for goods and services. What to do with them? The most natural, of course, is to invest them -- right here in the U.S.A., where their investments are safest and likely to grow. That means buying things, like companies that run cranes, at ports . . .
What happens when the U.S. government shortens the list of things you can buy with U.S. dollars? Simple: they are less valuable to you. You want them less. Maybe Euros or Yen would be better . . .
That makes the dollar go down in value, and that makes interest rates go up.
And when fewer people come around looking to buy U.S. investments, guess what happens to the price of them? Same thing if you're trying to sell your house, but no one comes around: you cut the price. You are suddenly poorer.
Now, the argument of course was that national security was at risk; and if true, then this shouldn't have gotten this far.
But looming over this whole thing is the collossal, stupendous incompetence of the President and his staff.
First, the White House should have seen this coming and been prepared. Either head this off at the pass, quietly -- and thus do minimal damage to our relations with the United Arab Emirates -- or, if you're going to go ahead, lay the groundwork, prepare for the whole thing, to have your best shot of prevailing.
If the facts are as President Bush claims (and, boy, isn't he being awfully passive and whiny in all this? Doesn't he know he's . . . um . . . the President?), then he has a good argument.
It's not brain-surgery. If you're the White House, get stories out there, for several weeks or months, about what wonderful allies we have in UAE. Give the American people reasons to root for these guys. The American people want to know we have friends overseas. TELL THEM! SHOW THEM!
And all this whining about "the media." That was weak 20 years ago; it's ridiculous today. In addition to many editorial writers, talking heads, talk-radio hosts who would be helpful (even 20 years ago), you have the world wide web -- untold blogs -- not to mention Fox News! And, um . . . you're the freakin' White House! Quit whining! If the White House can't get useful press, Bush needs to do some firing and hiring. (Getting good press is not that hard to do, when youre the WHITE HOUSE...)
Bush--if he'd really cared--could have given himself a fighting chance, just by preparing for the battle, and framing the issue. Something like this: "There are good, friendly, pro-American Muslim/Arab countries in the world, and there are bad, unfriendly, anti-American Muslim/Arab countries in the world. Our policy will be to help our friends, not our enemies, and to be sure we know the difference."
The American people can understand that argument. Why not try it?
Instead, the White House, to all appearances, was wholly unprepared. Then was playing catchup. If 1% of Americans (or anyone else) could locate Dubai or UAE on a map, that would be a lot. They were told--falsely--that this mystery country would control the ports! Had they been told, instead, a friendly country -- "oh, yeah, that's those friendly, pro-American, good-guy Muslim Arabs--we like them, Fred" -- would operate cranes . . . oh, and by the way, it's an old, venerable British company, which these friendly, pro-American, good-guy Muslim/Arab folks have bought control of . . . well, it starts to sound a little less ominous, doesn't it?
Then there is the political impact -- all negative.
Bush did himself no favors; he didn't do anything to make the GOP in Congress love him. If it's true that this was sound policy, the GOP is now on the wrong side of that. If this was the right thing to do, Bush and the GOP have little to show for it; the Democrats look better. Bush gave Hilary Clinton and the Democrats an opening to be on his "right" on his ace-in-the-whole, the war against terror; and his own credibility in this matter is now called into question.
Of course, for all I know, they really are al Qaeda suck-ups -- so we're told. In which case, my headline above is still true.
But somehow, I disbelieve that Bush would give his proxy, as it were, to such a crowd. However stupid he may be, I doubt he's that stupid. Think about it: "hey, here's a bunch of folks who are happy if there's another 9/11 . . . hmm, why not let them run cranes in our ports? Gee, can't think of any reason I'd regret that..."
No, all things considered, it probably was a reasonable deal, with relatively reasonable folks. The fact that a government was ultimately accountable for the company is a plus in this respect: they know, and they know we know, we can hold them accountable if they help our enemy, or drop the ball.
But one thing seems clear -- this thing has been FUBAR from the get-go.