Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Deal

I have to admit, Bush, that it warms the cockles of this cynical old heart to see how the leadership of the Republicans in both houses of Congress have finally found the gumption to disagree with you on something. The oddest thing of all is that I part-way agree with you myself! I mean, after a full decade of globalization in the shipping industry, this seems like an illogical moment to start agonizing over security. That barn door was left open quite some time ago, and the horse is long gone. As I understand it, a mere 5 percent of shipping containers entering the country is subject to examination, and the U.S. Customs are entrusted with that responsibility--not the ports' owners. In any event, if I understand it right, U.S. business interests own only a single one of the 24 major ports throughout the world. The rest are already owned by foreign companies--hardly a situtation that fosters the kind of vigilance your critics on this issue seem to want.

Still, the prospect of your using the first veto in five years in defense of what's basically a profitable business deal does seem deliciously ironic. No veto when it comes to over-the-top deficits and the sound financial footing of this country. No veto when it comes to serving the interests of the American people. But a big veto threat to help ram a corporate take-over by an Arab company down our collective throats. You find yourself in a strange position, granted. The Arab world will unquestionably be up in arms (again!) if they see this country attempting to discriminate once more against one of their number. I'm sure you'd like to scratch an Arab back, Bush--and for very obvious reasons. But you built yourself another trap here: to allow the Congress to put the kibosh on this deal would be a slap in the face of the few (possible) friends we have left in that part of the world, and further bait for those who already wish us harm. It would be, as you so nicely put it, Bush, "a terrible signal to friends around the world." At least those few friends we have left.

But is the United Arab Emirates just another Arab country, a friend, as you'd have us believe? Or does it share, in Senator Chuck Schumer's words, "a significant nexus with terrorists?" If so, of course, you're in danger of being seen as aiding and abetting those very people against whom you're waging your continuing "war"--an irrestible opening for political attacks, against which your Republicans would have to defend themselves in an election year. Their current opposition to the deal is surely no more than a pre-emptive action to save their political skins. So where, I wonder, did they learn about pre-emption being the better part of valor?

All in all, it's another fine mess for you to have to deal with--and once again one of your own making, Bush. You were seemingly out of touch enough to be uninformed on an issue that could so obviously bring you grief. Apparently your functionaries rubber-stamped the deal without stopping to think that it might be important to discuss the possible consequences with you, or for you to discuss the matter with your allies in the Congress--let alone your opponents. Me, I'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop. The one in the Middle East, if opposition to the deal here at home is perceived as the insult they will likely take it to be. And as I say, I'm not sorry to see the Democrats get hold of another useful piece of ammunition.

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