Friday, March 10, 2006

Your incompetence and arrogance is to blame, Mr. President

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 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.


Jackie said...

Working in international transportation for the very large consumer goods company in the big city south of you I can tell you absolutely for sure that a company running the operations (cranes) at a port do not CONTROL the entire port. First - this company manages many ports that the US gets ships/cargo from - it would be MUCH easier to put bad stuff on there rather than fool with it hear. So - they already have the opportunity if they want to. Second - there are many companies that work together to make ports and ocean shipping hum - and I do mean hum. It is the MOST reliable of all shipping methods - over 98% on time. And the big companies that are involved - ocean vessels, logistics management, comapanies shipping the products - ALL HAVE BIG MONEY involved - both in contracts/reputation and equipment. The one thing I know about capitalists is that they would not let a company run the ports with their equipment unless they were very efficient, very good and very safe. So - I much more trust capitalism (even greed) than any government agency.

You have also hit the nail on the head that this is ALL POLITICS. And President Bush and his administration MISSED BIG TIME and the democrates will make hay with this for a long time. The Administration should have known that A. This was going to be a BIG political deal and treat it like that B. Get ahead of it and use the media and others to lay the ground work. C. Don't expect the apparent public pronouncements of the other side (tolerance and all that crap) to really be what they say when they see an opportunity to kill. National Security has absolutely nothing to do with this deal and Politics and playing that game well does. He's been in DC long enough to know and should have done MUCH BETTER.
God Bless.

Dad29 said...

Father, I suspect that the visceral negative reaction to the deal was part of a larger, still-amorphous unrest with GWB's policies on trade.

His trade policies, which de facto have enshrined Red China as "good guys," have also created havoc in the Upper Midwesst. GM's rumored to be considering Chapter XI; Dana's already gone there, as has another Tier One supplier to the auto industry.

Strike One for Bush.

Then there's WallyWorld, a darling of the "conservatives" which has a long (and I do mean LONG)-standing reputation for abusing their suppliers, many of which are small-to-medium-sized US companies. Insofar as people are able to attach WallyWorld to GWB, it's Strike Two for Bush.

Finally, the Dubai Deal. Note this morning's column from Mark Levin (not exactly a leftywonk) where he reposts a FORBES article describing the very shady dealings which go on in Dubai.

Strike Three.

Too bad GWB thinks PJBuchanan's an irrelevant sidelines anklebiter. If there IS an intelligent Democrat out there, they could eat George for lunch on the Fair/Free Trade issue, all by itself.

Andrew said...

The UAE finances terrorists and Al-quada. They should be punished somehow.