Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Now I know it's a bad idea....

I have refrained till now on posting about the Bush plan to support the UAE purchase of a seaport company, effectively giving it control of 6 Eastern US seaports.

As I commented at Sister Toldjah:

for the moment I am undecided but leaning against it.

It is not like we donÂ?t already have a heavy foreign presence, but the amount of this one is kind of concerning.

What also concerns me though is that this could be knee jerk xenophobia. So I want to know more, and like I really want to see someone say *why* it is a good thing.

It better be something more persuasive then cost.

I think that is a fair assessment of the issue considering the overall lack of information.

With the Bush Admin now swinging hard about this, and threatening a veto (also courtesy of Sister Toldjah) I am still skeptical about its merits due to the overall bipartisan opposition to it, and a bit puzzled by Bush's adamant support of it.

As I also commented:

If Bush wants this to pass, and there are no real negatives to it as he suggests, then instead of fighting words, he ought to be addressing the concerns with disclosure and information.

on the Tony Snow show they dismissed it as reactionary, and while I think that may be overly simplistic, I also thing the reaction is hysterical on the face.

So open up people, and lets discuss what is really going on here.

If, as I heard today, the ports remain the property of the states, and the security remains with the Coast Guard and the TSA, then all we are talking about is administrative control and operations.

I do imagine the unions are concerned about maintaining their positions there as well.

So what would the good and bad here be? I have too many questions remaining to form an opinion yet.

Well finally, I read something that has convinced me it's a bad idea. From Drudge:

Carter backs Bush's stand on seaport-operations deal

WASHINGTON - President Bush is taking a battering from fellow Republicans, even the governors of New York and Maryland, over the administration's support for a decision that gives an Arab company control of some commercial operations at six major seaports -- including Miami-Dade's.

But he got a boost Monday from an unlikely source, frequent critic and former president Jimmy Carter, who downplayed fears that the deal poses a risk.

"The overall threat to the United States and security, I don't think it exists," Carter said on CNN's The Situation Room. "I'm sure the president's done a good job with his subordinates to make sure this is not a threat."

The show of support from the Democrat, who has not hesitated to criticize Bush, underscores the odd political lines that have emerged since news broke last week that the United States gave the thumbs-up to the $6.8 billion sale of the British firm P&O Ports to a company owned by the United Arab Emirates.

Well that tears it, if Carter likes it, it is unlikely a good idea. Ok I am mostly kidding here, but I have to admit the fact that I question Carter's judgment based on many of his recent comments and attacks on the administration.

The article continues below:

Both Democrats and Republicans have called on the president to scrap the deal. On Monday Republican Govs. George Pataki of New York and Robert Ehrlich of Maryland questioned the decision. And congressional outrage persisted even as the White House signaled it's unlikely to block it.

Political analysts suggested that challenging the president gives Republican lawmakers a chance to deflect Democratic criticism.

"This is a homeland security, national security issue and I think Republicans think they own this issue and they don't want to give Democrats an opening," said Stuart Rothenberg, editor of The Rothenberg Political Report, a Washington newsletter.

REPUBLICANS WORRIED

Republicans said they're simply worried no one was paying enough attention to security concerns.

"After Sept. 11 we can't blindly follow the president in a way that seems to create a homeland security concern," said Rep. Mark Foley, a Palm Beach County Republican. Foley said he's working on legislation to give Congress the authority to approve or reject all applications made through the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States, the top-secret group that OK'd the transaction.

Port security officials have dismissed the congressional concerns, but Republicans suggest an administration that is usually politically attuned has sorely misread public reaction.

"I don't know if they were tone deaf, but they certainly didn't have a pulse on what people were thinking in terms of security," said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami Republican. She and Foley plan news conferences today in Miami. "We haven't forgotten Sept. 11. I know the president hasn't either, but that has to extend to more than just speeches."

Traveling with the president, White House spokesman Scott McClellan on Monday repeated the administration's contention that the sale was thoroughly vetted by a "rigorous review process." His comments came after he was asked if Bush was "comfortable" with the deal after Sunday morning talk shows featured Republicans criticizing it.

The Port of Miami-Dade is taking a neutral position, stressing that DP World would only be the majority owner in one of three terminals. But Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez said Monday the matter "raises issues."

At Miami's port, P&O Ports owns 50 percent of the Port of Miami Terminal Operating Co., which handles about half the cargo containers at the port.

Senate hearings are already planned and Sen. Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, vowed Monday to push legislation to block the sale if President Bush doesn't act by March 2 -- the day the sale is set to close, affecting ports in Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia, New Orleans and New Jersey, as well as Miami.

Visiting Dubai, Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes sought to rebuff suggestions that Congress' criticism is based on anti-Arab sentiment, according to the Associated Press.

"The lawmakers are questioning about security concerns in light of the fact that a couple of the Sept. 11 hijackers did come from the United Arab Emirates," Hughes said, adding that the Middle Eastern nation has been "a strong partner in the war against terror."

PREJUDICE ALLEGED

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington group that seeks to promote a positive image of Islam and Muslims, said some of the reaction smacks of prejudice.
"No one seems to be criticizing the company itself, but they're most concerned with the religion and ethnicity of its owners," said spokesman Ibrahim Hooper. "It's what we have to deal with in the post-9/11 era."

But lawmakers like Ros-Lehtinen, who is aiming to become the next chair of the House International Relations Committee, were unapologetic about their stance.

"They've been a strong ally, but what about tomorrow?" Ros-Lehtinen said of the United Arab Emirates.

I think my initial fear that this was partially knee jerk xenophobic (over)reaction is justified.

But the article leaves as many questions unanswered as it answers, so my continued position is that I am seeking more information. I hope the Bush Admin is forthcoming in more disclosure of how this was vetted.

Now is not the time to demand partisan loyalty, now is the time to explain what and why.