Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Bush Pushes Back On Dubai Deal

Preznit Bush threatened to veto any bill sent to him prohibiting the sale of six ports to a government-owned Dubai company. Here's Richard Simon and Peter Wallsten at the LA Times on the story:

WASHINGTON — President Bush vowed Tuesday to veto any legislation that would block a state-owned Arab company from managing the operations at six large U.S. seaports, setting up a major confrontation between the White House and its usually steadfast Republican allies in Congress.

Bush's threat came as the top Republicans on Capitol Hill — Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois — joined a chorus of lawmakers requesting that the port deal be reviewed because of national security concerns.

Under the controversial transaction, Dubai Ports World, a business owned by the United Arab Emirates, would operate ports in New York; Newark, N.J.; Philadelphia; Baltimore; Miami; and New Orleans. A British company had been in charge of the ports, but it was recently purchased by the Arab company. The sale is expected to be finalized in March.

The U.S. government, including officials from the Department of Homeland Security, reviewed the deal and approved it. But the political furor over that decision has been growing in the last few days.

Responding to bipartisan calls that the deal be revisited — and perhaps disapproved — Bush was blunt.

Lawmakers "ought to listen to what I have to say about this," he told reporters. "They ought to look at the facts and understand the consequences of what they're going to do. But if they pass a law, I'll deal with it, with a veto."

The president was noncommittal when asked if he would agree to let administration officials brief Congress on the agreement. He said the Arab company's record was "clear for everybody to see."

Legislators on both sides of the political aisle have questioned whether the deal would compromise security at the ports, with some noting links that the Sept. 11 terrorists had to the United Arab Emirates.

The Bush administration views that as an unfair attack on the country, which it defends as a strong ally in its war on terrorism. More broadly, criticism of the deal threatens the White House's efforts to build better relations in the Arab world.

The dispute threatens to undermine the one area where Bush remains popular with the public — protecting the U.S. from terrorism — and could give Democrats a political weapon to use against him during this year's congressional campaigns.

If Preznit Bush actually had to veto legislation prohibiting the ports-sale to the Dubai company, that would be the first time he has ever vetoed any bill.

Kinda tells you about his priorities, doesn't it?

Ultimately Bush will back down on this deal because the opposition to it within his own party is too fierce. Just like he backed down on the Homeland Security Department (which he was originally against before he was for) and the Harriet Miers Supreme Court nomination.

Preznit Bush can trigger a longer government review of this ports-sale (45 days) than it has gotten so far and word is that he will do just that later this week.

The political firestorm over the ports-sale will recede during the longer 45 day review and by the time the review ends, the ports-sale deal with the government-owned Dubai company will be denied.

This way Georgie Boy gets to believe he stayed tough in the face of controversy and Karl Rove makes sure that Democrats cannot wield the ports-sale as a blungeon against the GOP come the November midterms.

Now that's what I think will happen.

John Aravosis at AMERICAblog thinks the United Arab Emirates has something serious on Bush, forcing him to push through this ports-sale deal despite the fierce bipartisan operation. Here's Aravosis:

Why is he doing this? It would be easier for Bush to side with the Democrats and Republicans and even the religious right who are all demanding he scotch the deal. But Bush is digging in, he's gonna stick by the deal.

The only reason you do that is because there's some secret deal that's tied to this port takeover and Bush isn't tell us about it. All that supposed "help" the United Arab Emirates is giving us by letting US ships dock there, is it being paid with extortion? Give us your harbors or we no longer accept your ships?

It's not clear.

But what is clear is that the United Arab Emirates has the president of the United States by the balls, they've got something on him, and that's not a good thing.

So much for Karl Rove and the Republicans devoting this year to blasting Democrats over national security. George Bush just shot himself in the face, and didn't even need Cheney.

And one more thing. Bush is now playing the race card - I dare anyone to explain to me why it was okay for a British company but not an Arab company to run our ports, Bush said yesterday.

Well, Coretta, you're hardly a bastion of civil rights, so spare us the crocodile tears.

Second, no American is going to buy the supposed equivalence between Great Britain, America's closest ally in the world, and the United Arab Emirates, a country with disturbing ties to terrorism. I'm not thrilled about any foreign government running our ports (and mind you, it was a British company running our ports before, THIS is the actual UAE itself that would be running them), but when it comes to national security and someone trying to sneak a nuclear bomb into the United States, you better believe I'm going to trust my life to England over the United Arab Emirates. And so will every American you poll.

And finally, Bush is willing to chuck our civil rights out the window with his illegal domestic spying program, indefinite detentions at Guantanamo, and more. But suddenly we have a war-on-terror issue dealing with Bush's rich Middle Eastern oil buddies and NOW Bush is more interested in civil rights than national security.

Nice priorities, Mr. President.

I agree with Aravosis that Bush has some kind of "secret deal" with the UAE over this ports-sale. Otherwise his insistence on this deal doesn't make any sense.

I don't agree that Democrats will now be able to use this issue to undercut the GOP's national security meme come November.

Americans have pretty short memories and Karl Rove will use plenty of national security memes and other wedge issues between now and November to help the memories of this ports-sale deal fade.

You'll note, for instance, that this week the Justice Department arrested three Ohio men for allegedly trying to kill American and coalition forces in Iraq and aid the Iraqi insurgency. One of the men was also accused of planning to kill Preznit Bush.

The indictments of the three Ohio men were unsealed yesterday.

I don't want to sound cynical, but I would bet somebody in the Bush administration thought yesterday would be a pretty good time to announce a trio of terrorism arrests, considering all the negative coverage the Bushies were getting over the Dubai deal.

And there'll be plenty more announcements like this in the "war on terror" the closer we get to the November midterms.

I wouldn't be surprised if Karl Rove brings back the ever-popular "terror alerts" he successfully employed over a dozen times in the lead-up to the 2004 presidential election and hasn't used since.

Rove, Bush and the GOP will do whatever it takes for the party to maintain control of the House and Senate next November and Democrats shouldn't think this Dubai deal debacle innoculates them against Rovian smear attacks of treason and weakness next November.

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