Getting dressed this morning with C-SPAN in the background, I heard -- only half-paying attention -- someone vehemently criticizing the White House's approval of the ports deal and vowing to return to Washington to demand accountability from the administration.
Glancing up, I was stunned to see that the man doing the talking was Rep. Vito Fossella of New York, with an (R) next to his name.
Indeed, the more I've watched and read about this jaw-droppingly bad decision, the more (R)s I've seen taking on the president.
"In regards to selling American ports to the United Arab Emirates," wrote Rep. Sue Myrick in a letter to the president, "not just NO -- but HELL NO."
"I will fight harder than ever for this legislation [to stop the port deal]," promised Rep. Pete King, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, "and if it is vetoed I will fight as hard as I can to override it."
Among the GOP officeholders joining King and Myrick at the port deal barricades are Bill Frist, Dennis Hastert, George Pataki, Michael Bloomberg, Susan Collins, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and Tom Reynolds, chairman of the National Republican Campaign Committee -- who clearly knows a losing issue when he sees one. Conservative commentators John Kasich, Cal Thomas, Hugh Hewitt, and conservative national security analysts Michael Ledeen and Frank Gaffney have also denounced the deal.
It's been getting harder and harder to tell the (R)s from the (D)s on a growing number of issues, including Iraq, the drug war, and the fight to cut pork-barrel spending. But the dubious Dubai deal has the potential to be the most division-blurring of all -- and the most damaging to Karl Rove's dreams of turning 2006 into a replay of 2004.
Bush's reputation as the Great Protector who will do anything -- anything! -- to keep us safe, even if it means torturing, spying, and trashing the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions, is his one remaining political asset. And putting six of our major ports under the control of the United Arab Emirates threatens to undermine this rep in an irreparable way.
You don't need to be a member of the Council on Foreign Relations to grasp that a country that embraced the Taliban, was a financial hub for the 9/11 attackers, and whose own ports were used by notorious Pakistani scientist A.Q. Kahn to smuggle nuclear components to Iran, Libya, and North Korea, probably shouldn't be handed the keys to shipping operations in New York, New Jersey, Miami, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New Orleans (I mean, c'mon, haven't Bush and Chertoff done enough damage to the Big Easy?).
This deal is a nonstarter and a no-brainer. A Harriet Miers debacle to the hundredth- power. Next thing you know, the president will be assuring us that he knows what's in the heart of Dubai Ports World, Inc.
But instead of pulling back from the deal and hurriedly looking for the port operations equivalent of Sam Alito, the president stomped his feet, held his breath, and stuck out his veto.
Bush hasn't vetoed a single bill in five years. Turns out his line in the sand can be found in the deserts of the UAE.
Here are just some of the questions that need to be answered: Why was it approved in little more than half the 45-days mandated by Congress? Why didn't the president find out about the deal until it was already done? Why wasn't Congress briefed about the transaction before it was approved? What role did the corporate connections of Treasury Secretary Snow and newly appointed Maritime Administration head David Sanborn play in winning the White House's backing? Was the deal tied to the pending trade agreement the administration is negotiating with the UAE?
The most significant aspect of the port controversy is the spotlight it turns on the White House's hypocrisy on national security. Just look at what Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff had to say: "We have to balance the paramount urgency of security against the fact that we still want to have a robust global trading system."
That says all you need to know about the perverted priorities of the Bush White House. Four and a half years after 9/11, our ports remain shockingly vulnerable to terrorist attacks, with about five percent of cargo given security screenings. Our chemical and nuclear plants are similarly susceptible. And the guy in charge of Homeland Security is more worried about chilling the international business climate than keeping us safe. So fighting the global war on terror needs to be "balanced" with a robust bottom line?
Is the business of America still business -- even for those touting their "post-9/11 worldview"?
For a long time now, I've been urging Democrats to relentlessly take on the president on national security. Well, he's just handed them the Mother of All National Security Cudgels.
Start pummeling ... before the GOP rebellion beats you to the punch.
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