Thursday :: Feb 23, 2006

Dubai Deal A Gift For Democrats


by Steve

“[National Security Agency] wiretapping, the Iraq war—all of these gut issues, I stand by him, but this I can't. When the president says, what's the difference between Britain and Dubai, I mean, Britain didn't recognize the Taliban before 9/11.”
--GOP Rep. Peter King, to the NY Daily News Tuesday

Where will things go from here on the Dubai ports deal? Some of the conventional wisdom is that what we’ll see are another week or so of concern and some pointed comments from members of Congress aimed at the Administration about this deal, so that these GOP incumbents can show their constituents that they aren’t a rubber stamp for the White House. This CW says that Hastert and Frist will delay this deal and make the White House work for it, but in the end, as the New York Daily News says today, Bush will get this deal through after doing the prep work he should have done weeks ago. It doesn’t help when Bush says yesterday that he couldn’t be bothered to know about this deal before it was approved (a flat-out lie), or when he says today that we shouldn’t worry about security (coming as this does from Mr. “My Pet Goat”). But again, the CW says that in the end, the White House will work very hard to get the GOP support it needs from the necessary incumbents.

But is this true?

The public is now aware that five years after 9/11, this country will no longer have domestic control of many ports. And there will be some debate as to why the administration structured the deal the way they did, to demand certain things from the UAE and let them off the hook for other things dealing with effective legal oversight of this firm. But will there be any residual damage from this deal with GOP allies in Congress, who are still pretty worked up over this? I would normally say no, I don’t think so. We have seen many of these incumbents go along, and stupidly jump in the barrel with the White House as the whole crew heads over Niagara Falls this November.

But Democrats can and should exploit the Administration’s preference for profits over security as embodied in this deal. The Times reports this morning that the GAO noted the Treasury Department has used an overly narrow definition of national security threats in evaluating these types of deals. Why? Because the Administration wanted to encourage foreign investment and ownership of domestic assets.

In September, the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress, said the Treasury Department, as head of the interagency committee that reviews such deals, had used an overly narrow definition of national security threats because it wanted to encourage foreign investment.
The department disputed those findings, saying that the committee had used an adequate definition and that decisions had been reached by consensuses of agencies with differing interests.

It is irrelevant to defend this deal by saying that many agencies with differing interests agreed to this deal, when they all report to the same man, a man who apparently didn’t know squat about this deal, and who takes his cues from a VP who has always placed profit opportunities above national security. It is delicious to see national security thrown back in Bush’s face by Democrats and those in his own party.

The Democrats will now have the opportunity they have lacked to turn Rove’s boast on its head, and show voters this fall that it is they who have a post-9/11 view of the world, while it is the GOP that hasn’t changed its spots at all: it was, and always has been a GOP priority for cash to trump national security. And it is on full display with this deal.

What isn’t noticed yet by many in the media is that this story has the potential to split the Administration’s “cash is king” crowd from their usual base of conservative supporters in both houses of Congress. You’ll note from the comments in many of these stories that it will be difficult for Peter King, Mary Bono, Sue Myrick, Tom DeLay, and other House GOP members to eat their words and eventually support this deal, just as it will be difficult for GOP senators from coastal states like Snowe and Collins of Maine, perhaps even Graham of South Carolina and Liddy Dole of North Carolina to support this deal without some fallout. And if Bush is looking for help on this issue from Democrats in the Senate, why would Ben Nelson or his constituents in Nebraska, or Kent Conrad, Tim Johnson, Mary Landrieu, or other red state Democrats and their constituents care about helping a Middle Eastern country take over management of our ports? Heartland newspapers are already calling on Congress to stop this deal, given the UAE’s past record on terrorism. This isn’t a typical red state issue where Bush and Rove have pressured Democrats to break with their party. This story can definitely split the GOP’s conservatives who thought they were the better party on national security, from the pay-to-play crowd occupying the White House, while the Democrats (aside from Joe Lieberman) provide no help at all.

What else can Democrats do? Well, Congress returns from recess next week. Democrats should immediately use this to place the Bush Administration’s failings on port security in the correct context. While the GOP introduces resolutions to block this port management transfer and overturn the foreign investment committee action, Democrats should introduce resolutions immediately to fully fund the Coast Guard’s, Border Patrol's, and Customs Service's requests over the last five years for port security, as well as the funding requests for nuclear plant, chemical plant, and rail line safety that have been rejected by the GOP and this White House. And Democrats should fund it from Rummy’s upcoming Iraq supplemental appropriation while reminding voters that Murtha was correct in his assessment that we need to redeploy our forces now to safe areas and neighboring countries, so that we don’t find ourselves trying to police a civil war. Make the GOP incumbents vote against this resolution as they fight their own White House on the ports deal. And while they are at it, Democrats should introduce a bill that requires congressional oversight of the foreign investment committee so that the White House’s “cash is king” philosophy no longer trumps national security.

And every Democrat in Congress should drop by a place of worship in the next week, and get down on their knees and thank the Almighty for what has fallen in their laps this week.

Steve :: 7:52 AM :: Comments (24) :: TrackBack (0) :: Digg It!