February 22, 2006

A Political Issue, Not A Security Issue

Rich Galen weighes in on the situation. The biggest problem that he sees (and I tend to agree with him) is that the President failed to adequately prepare the public for this announcement, thereby letting the media and the Democrats frame it to their advantage.

- Robert Menendez (D-NJ), according to the Liberal website Democratic Underground said, "We wouldn't turn the border patrol or the customs service over to a foreign government, and we can't afford to turn our ports over to one either."

- This is the key to the problem. None of these goofballs knew that the ports of New York, Newark, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Miami, and New Orleans were ALREADY run by a foreign-owned company.

- The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, a British outfit, has the contract to operate these ports. P & O (as it is known to those of us well-schooled in the port-operations game) is being sold to another company - Dubai Ports World (DP World) which will take over P & O's existing contracts.

So, just like the media innaccurately designated the terrorist surveillance program as "domestic spying", the reports now are all about "port security". And once again, this is disingenuous.
- This is like saying the company which operates your local airport - which is to say it decides how much you pay for parking and where in the terminal the Starbucks will be located - is responsible for airline security.

- It isn't.

- Nor will DP World be responsible for port security. That remains with Customs and the Coast Guard.

- The reason the President bristled about this today is because he doesn't think he deserves to be doubted on his commitment to the national security.

- It is one thing for Chuck Schumer or Hillary Clinton to complain. It is something else again for Dennis Hastert or Bill Frist to doubt whether the President is strong enough on terrorism.

- The Left has been wailing about George W. Bush being, if anything, TOO aggressive on his anti-terrorism efforts using the NSA intercepts as their example. Now those same people are complaining the President is not being tough enough.

- Want to know what's really behind all this?

- It's an even numbered year and we are 253 days from election day.

- It's not about port security; It's about incumbent security.

Which goes to my point in an earlier post. The President - who is focused like a laser beam on the overall safety of the United States - didn't see this issue as political. Democrats - who are so wrapped up in trying to claw their way back into power that national security takes a back seat in their minds - did. And many Republicans who seem to care more about holding on to their offices than about Homeland Security have become cowed by their colleagues across the aisle. Uncharacteristically, the White House miscalculated this reality.

UPDATE - 8:45am:
The editors at OpinionJournal.com also question the timing of this "outrage":

The timing of this sudden uproar is also a tad suspicious. A bidding war for the British-owned P&O has been going on since last autumn, and the P&O board accepted Dubai's latest offer last month. The story only blew up last week, as a Florida firm that is a partner with P&O in Miami, Continental Stevedoring and Terminals Inc., filed a suit to block the purchase. Miami's mayor also sent a letter of protest to Mr. Bush. It wouldn't be the first time if certain politicians were acting here on behalf of private American commercial interests.

Critics also forget, or conveniently ignore, that the UAE government has been among the most helpful Arab countries in the war on terror. It was one of the first countries to join the U.S. container security initiative, which seeks to inspect cargo in foreign ports. The UAE has assisted in training security forces in Iraq, and at home it has worked hard to stem terrorist financing and WMD proliferation. UAE leaders are as much an al Qaeda target as Tony Blair.

As for the Democrats, we suppose this is a two-fer: They have a rare opportunity to get to the right of the GOP on national security, and they can play to their union, anti-foreign investment base as well. At a news conference in front of New York harbor, Senator Chuck Schumer said allowing the Arab company to manage ports "is a homeland security accident waiting to happen." Hillary Clinton is also along for this political ride.

So the same Democrats who lecture that the war on terror is really a battle for "hearts and minds" now apparently favor bald discrimination against even friendly Arabs investing in the U.S.? Guantanamo must be closed because it's terrible PR, wiretapping al Qaeda in the U.S. is illegal, and the U.S. needs to withdraw from Iraq, but these Democratic superhawks simply will not allow Arabs to be put in charge of American longshoremen. That's all sure to play well on al Jazeera.

In other words, Dems can "sound" tough on national security without actually having to do anything to prove it.

UPDATE DEUX - 9:15am:
Dafydd at Big Lizards has an idea that would alleviate security concerns and still allow the deal to go through (with the only losers in the mix being Democrats who would come away looking like hysterical nincompoops).

h/t: Captain Ed

Posted by: Gary at 07:28 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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