As I’ve suggested before, everyone and their Dubaian Uncle was coming out of the woodwork to try to save George W. Bush from himself over the ports deal debacle. The culmination of these efforts is the announcement by Dubai Ports World that it will be divesting itself of its United States operations, thereby (hopefully) obviating the need for legislation that would have the same result– legislation that the President has vowed to veto, which would be a really, really stupid idea if he did.
Now, this whole ports thing seems to have caught the usually well-oiled Bush Administration spin-machine off its game. My speculation is that this is the result of two unfortunate events. The first is that the President himself foolishly felt emboldened as a result of Fudd-gate, and decided he could show off his tough-guy act with his extremely unusual Air Force One announcement that he would veto any effort to thwart the Dubaians’ bid’ness deal… Years of the most careful handling can be undone in moments like that… There is a reason that Dick Cheney is the Administration’s designated heavy… he’s good at it.
Second, of course, is the failure to comprehend what we have all known: nearly five years of a drum-beat designed to make Americans fear and despise Moslems has worked wonders: Americans readily admit that they are prejudiced against Moslems in far greater numbers than in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks. Professor Cole sums it up for us nicely. While, admittedly, there are some legitimate concerns that have been raised about the ports deal, it struck me that those could be worked out, if the will to do so was there. What cannot be worked out is the scaremongering sound-bites… members of Congress having to answer to their constituents about why our government is handing over management of our ports to the Arabs. Again, that Dubai is a trusted ally, with professional (mostly American) managers with overall security still entrusted to the Coast Guard (and Heaven help us, Michael Chertoff’s Homeland Security Department)… the deal is not so bad. But trust the Arabs? Are you crazy?
In our Rush Limbaugh and Rupert Murdoch dominated discourse… this sort of thing was, sadly, inevitable. Let’s just say that I remain perplexed about the sudden failure of the Bush spin-machine on this one. It seems as if Dick and Karl may have simply been unable to stop Junior himself, who was eager to do his own deal… I really don’t know.
I do know that it looks like this had been shaping up for some extreme ugliness for the Bush Administration, forcing the President to either (1) appear to cave under actual bipartisan pressure, or (2) have to beat up his own party’s Congressional delegation with primary season upon us… neither of which is the kind of move that has kept this Administration and its Congressional allies in the money for so long.
Fortunately for the President and his Congressional allies, the grown-ups (I’m thinking Rove, Cheney, or quite possibly Jim Baker if not Poppy Bush) picked up the phone and called the Emir of Dubai, and told him to “un-f*** this”, thus saving George W. Bush from himself.
Now, if only someone were available to save the rest of us from him.