Thursday, February 23, 2006

Outsourcing National Security

Here's the Washington Times on how Democrats are trying to use the Dubai ports deal to out-9/11 Karl Rove and company:

President Bush is on the defensive on national security for the first time in his presidency over his administration's decision to approve a Middle Eastern company's bid to manage U.S. ports, leaving Democrats and Republicans all running to his right on the issue.

Republicans are openly talking about bills to halt the deal and sound eager to override a threatened presidential veto, while Democrats say the administration's decision cuts deeply into Mr. Bush's national security credentials.

Democrats even turned around White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove's barb last month that they have a "pre-9/11 view of the world."

"To paraphrase Karl Rove, Democrats and Republicans have fundamentally different views on national security," said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Bill Burton. "For example, Republicans think we should outsource national security to a state used by 9/11 hijackers as an operational and financial base. Democrats think we should not."


For Democrats, Mr. Bush has played right into an issue they have talked about for years. Sen. John Kerry made the lack of port security a common theme of his failed presidential campaign against Mr. Bush in 2004, and congressional Democrats consistently try to boost spending on screening cargo.

"The president likes to say that security is his top priority. It's time for him to put his personal attention and time into turning that rhetoric into reality," said Sen. Patty Murray, Washington Democrat.

Meanwhile, Republican candidates running in November's congressional elections, such as two of the Republicans seeking Tennessee's open Senate seat, and Max Burns, who is seeking a House seat from Georgia, also distanced themselves from the deal.

"I don't understand how it can be in the best interests of our national security to have a foreign firm, especially when there is suspicion of having ties with terrorist organizations, running our ports," Mr. Burns said.

Just as worrisome for the White House, Republicans seeking to take Mr. Bush's place in 2009 also rushed to oppose him.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, first sent out a news release with the headline that he was calling for a "review," then minutes later re-released it with the new headline that he wanted a "hold." Mr. Frist also sent a message through his political action committee to supporters announcing his stand against the president.

But Phil Singer, spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, accused Republicans who are outraged over the Dubai deal of hypocrisy for casting votes against Democratic initiatives in recent years aimed at beefing up port security.

"Anyone looking for a definition of the pre-9/11 worldview need look no further than at how leading Republican senators have blocked Democratic efforts to improve port security since the 2001 attacks," Mr. Singer said.

"If these Republican senators are genuine about doing something to improve port security, they should stop voting against Democratic efforts to keep America safe."

He pointed to six votes where Mr. Frist voted against Democratic proposals aimed at port security and four similar votes by Sen. George Allen, Virginia Republican.

Because most of the GOP are strenuously opposing this ports sale, I doubt Democrats will be able to use the Dubai deal against Republicans too effectively come November, but the "port insecurity" meme certainly does take some of the wind out of Karl Rove's "Dems have a pre-9/11 mindset" campaign sail, doesn't it?

It's gonna be hard for Rove to call Dems weak on national security when Democrats can simply respond that the Bush administration wants to outsource national security to its oil rich buddies.

Maybe the Dubai deal makes the national security a wash come November.

If that's the case, Republicans really are in trouble, because terrorism and national security are the only issues the GOP has left to use against Democrats. On all other issues, like the economy, taxes, the budget deficit, health care, education, poll after poll shows the American public trusts Democrats more than Republicans by double digit margins.

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