Of all the silly comments coming out of Washington from various and sundry pundits, columnists and administration apologists, the one about misgivings over the Dubai World Ports deal being nothing more than anti-Arab sentiment has to be the silliest. The president’s comment that public reservations about the deal sending “a bad signal” to the Arab street tops the list, as if the United States is otherwise held in high regard in the Muslim world.
One of the oddest editorial takes on the situation was that expressed by Oliver North in Sunday’s Washington Times. His op ed piece floated the notion that the Bush administration is bad at “spin control” and that political opponents are “framing the issue” – – an astonishing premise given the fact that spinning and constantly providing favored media sources with daily talking points has pretty much defined the life of this White House. Suggestions that UAE’s former terrorist affiliations are matters for concern are, according to North, “racially tinged”. It is odder still that Oliver North receives so much time and space in the media given that his record is, let’s say, ethically troubled.
What seems to have happened is that this administration tried to slip another one past Congress and the American people without following the proper protocols or adhering to long-standing legal constraints. Republican Senator, Lindsey Graham, on Sunday’s “Meet the Press” called the process by which the deal was formulated “flawed” and said the administration seemed to be “tone deaf.” Once again, a government agency side-stepped oversight, and it hasn’t helped reassure the public or promote the administration’s cause to learn how porous the security apparatus is at our ports regardless of who’s in charge.
Similarly it isn’t a plus to learn that the United Arab Emirates have a long-standing business relationship with The Carlyle Group or that they have contributed a million dollars to the Bush Library or that they’ve helped finance brother Neil’s educational testing business. It may not be entirely the case that the Bush family puts business interests ahead of national interests, but there’s a whiff of something surrounding all this that isn’t all that pleasant.
As it turns out the North claim of spin ineptitude on the part of this White House is really just that their spin game is often undermined by facts on the ground, in the case of Katrina, Iraq and elsewhere, and they haven’t adjusted well to the demands of reality. In the course of endless undercover machinations to promote programs and policies, the president and his people are finally meeting a wall of resistance because the public has begun to realize that secrecy isn’t a policy but a tactic to obscure the true nature of actions that can’t stand the light of day. The press and the American people are just now beginning to play catch-up, sad to say.
What is needed going forward is a thoroughgoing review of exactly what port management entails as it relates to matters of both security and business practices. The Dubai group should be required, as other port managers are, to keep records of its business affairs in this country available for stateside scrutiny, and the American people need to be reassured about the security of our nation’s ports.
We are past gamesmanship and into matters of substance. Critics of the Bush administration regarding their PR failures are missing a much more important point which has to do with its failure to level with the American people.

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