Wednesday, February 22, 2006


I must say that this Port controversy is very interesting. It seems to be the one issue where Democrats and Republicans; Left and Right; even LGF and Kos agrree, with only a few exceptions.

This would seem to make a political decision about it a true no-brainer--if the political considerations were all that mattered. Those who read my blog know that I am not one of those who believe that Bush is stupid; so it is very interesting to me that he is choosing to use "nuclear" (i.e., veto) language over this. Over this?

I'm not sure what is really going on here, but I am sure that something important is behind the apparent intransigience of the President on this issue. Here is what he said:
Q Mr. President, leaders in Congress, including Senator Frist, have said that they'll take action to stop the port control shift if you don't reverse course on it. You've expressed your thoughts here, but what do you say to those in Congress who plan to take legislative action?
THE PRESIDENT: They ought to listen to what I have to say about this. 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.

Q Why is it so important to you, sir, that you take on this issue as a political fight? Clearly, there's bipartisan --

THE PRESIDENT: I don't view it as a political fight. So do you want to start your question over? I view it as a good policy.

Q Why is it -- clearly --

THE PRESIDENT: Are you talking about the energy issue?

Q No, I'm sorry, the ports issue.

THE PRESIDENT: It's not a political issue.

Q But there clearly are members of your own party who will go to the mat against you on this.

THE PRESIDENT: It's not a political issue.

Q Why are you -- to make this, to have this fight?

THE PRESIDENT: I don't view it as a fight. I view it as me saying to people what I think is right, the right policy.

Q What's the larger message that you're conveying by sticking to this UAE contract, by saying that you're not going to budge on this, or you don't want to change policy?

THE PRESIDENT: There is a process in place where we analyze -- where the government analyzes many, many business transactions, to make sure they meet national security concerns. And I'm sure if you -- careful review, this process yielded a result that said, yes, a deal should go forward.

One of my concerns, however, is mixed messages. And the message is, it's okay for a British company, but a Middle Eastern company -- maybe we ought not to deal the same way. It's a mixed message. You put interesting words in your question, but I just view -- my job is to do what I think is right for the country. I don't intend to have a fight. If there's a fight, there is one, but nor do I view this as a political issue.

Q I say it because you said you'd be willing to use the veto on it.

THE PRESIDENT: I would. That's one of the tools the President has to indicate to the legislative branch his intentions. A veto doesn't mean fight, or politics, it's just one of the tools I've got. I say veto, by the way, quite frequently in messages to Congress.

He could have done the easy thing and said that there would be a delay until everyone was satisfied that it was the correct decision. He could have rejected the decision entirely. From a political standpoint either one would have worked for him. So, I must conclude that we do not have all the facts about what this is really about.

The Anchoress conveys the confusion of the staunch supporters of Bush in the WOT (like myself):
I’d like to think this is just a big rope-a-dope, but quite honestly, I’m out of humor on this stuff. President Bush seems to be going out of his way to confound even his most staunch supporters. One looks at this and thinks - he’s bending over and giving the Democrats the belt with which to beat him. Thank you, sir, may I have another?

I don’t pretend to understand it, but I’m frankly growing weary of it, and Bush should pay attention to my weariness, because if even “I” am getting tired of having to defend some of the stuff coming out of his White House, then that may indicate that his base is utterly weary of it, too. If you really want to lose in ‘08, make sure you’ve got everyone completely exhausted from your presidency and “ready for a change - any change” and make way too sharp a left turn. Seems to me that even if this is the greatest, safest deal in the world, its appearance stinks to high heaven and it’s a miserable political situation to be in the middle of: do we send a message that any and all Arabs, no matter who they are, are untrustworthy and business/finanical lepers? Or do we do business with them and allow possibly the worst sort of political fallout to occur?

She's right, but I think I'm leaning more toward AJ Strata's perspective:
People need to contemplate why Bush and the DoD and others are defending this deal so hard. Like I said in my previous post, try and envision scenarios where this deal increases our security as well as risks it. Both forms of speculation are equally valid.
One final thought. Bush is not going to be running for public office again. His stand won't benefit Democrats in Congress particularly; primarily because Republicans in Congrees don't support him on this issue either.

There is, to put it succintly, bipartisan outrage.

So, isn't it interesting that the only major support for Bush on this issue is coming from John McCain, who really wants to be the next Republican nominee for president? If he is to be Bush's heir-apparent, I wonder if he might know something more than most?

I'm going to reserve judgment for a while and see what new information comes to light over the next couple of weeks. Like most people, I can imagine many scenarios which would prove this to be an incredibly bad decision, both in the political and buisness sense.

OTOH, I can think of a few scenarios where it might very well be in our national interest to go through with this deal....

UPDATE: The WSJ makes some interesting points.

UPDATE II: SNOOKERED! A "perfect storm". I feel vindicated in my hesitance to jump on the bandwagon, and will continue to wait and see how this plays out.

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