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Greetings! Welcome back to PUNDIT ROUNDTABLE. I am your host, Ken McCracken. Well, it seems we have gotten beyond trivial issues such as quail hunting accidents, and on to a real, meaty issue, as put to our pundits this week in the form of this question:
Where do you stand on the issue of letting a Dubai company run American ports? Has your view changed since you first heard about the story? What do you make of the fact that George W. Bush did not know about this deal until it broke in the news?
Our first guest is Roundtable newcomer Mick Wright of Fishkite. What are your views on this Mick?
There's a reason John Kerry mentioned port security in each of the three presidential debates in 2004, and it isn't because they are the central fronts of the war on terror. Guarding our ports is no more important than protecting our borders to the north and south, enforcing our immigration laws or keeping the rest of our infrastructure secure.
Our next guest is a returning pundit, Dr. Steven Taylor of PoliBlog. Steven?
I haven’t written all that much on the ports issues that has been a headline topic for the last week or so. Still, I have paid attention to it from the beginning and have given it some thought.
Next we have newcomer and regular WILLisms.com commentor KipEsquire. What do you say Kip?
Before I state my position, let me answer Ken's two latter questions first. I think the recent revelation that the Department of Homeland Security "voted against the deal before they voted for it" may be the death knell for this transaction. Regarding the question of whether security is really an issue, it's hard to deny now that there is a "there" there. As for the President's lack of direct knowledge, to me that seems more of a political guffaw than a policy error — I don't expect a president to be "in the loop" on everything.The Host's Last Word: This is difficult issue to parse in my view, because there are excellent arguments on both sides of this question. My initial reaction was skepticism that this is a good idea, but now I think the risks to national security are not really that great here as long as the United States retains full and complete control over security at the ports. The ports are our most important entry into the nation, more important than the border with Mexico or our airports, because the ports are where the really really dangerous stuff such as dirty bombs, chemical weapons and *god forbid* nukes would get into this country - these items are probably just too bulky to enter the U.S. through any vector other than containerized traffic. But, because of the critical nature of these ports, our security should be top-notch and a top priority regardless of who runs the ports. It shouldn't matter if it is an Arab firm, a Dutch firm or a Japanese firm running it - these facilities need to be tight as a drum.
I just don't think there is any greater security risk from having an Arab firm run these terminals, because I don't believe al-Qaeda will be able to get its hands on the mechanisms that would allow access. But I think it is profoundly unfair to label those that think there is a greater risk 'islamaphobes' or 'racists' - because as Kip points out facts are not 'racist', and the fears associated with the UAE running these terminals are quite reasonable ones. I just don't happen to share them.
We need to engage rather than isolate Middle Eastern nations that are in any way disposed towards us in a kindly way, and the UAE has been a brave and staunch ally. This is a way to draw them closer to being the democratic and open society we want them to be. Shunning them at this point threatens to push them into the other camp.
Finally, I do not expect the President to be on top of each and every issue such as this because, well, the man has a lot on his plate. But you bet he is on top of it now! Having the President say that he knew nothing of this deal until he read about it in the papers was an oddly refreshing sort of admission.
Thanks for coming by folks, and come again next Sunday for our next edition of PUNDIT ROUNDTABLE!
Posted by Ken McCracken · 26 February 2006 01:13 PM
Nice stuff. Way more reasonable than what the talking heads have been spouting the past couple of weeks.
Posted by: Will Franklin at February 26, 2006 02:45 PM
Kip sure doesn't sugar coat it...I was just starting to get compfortable with the idea. BUT, now??? Yikes!
Posted by: Zsa Zsa at February 26, 2006 05:43 PM
Mick, how long have you felt this way about our VP?
Posted by: John Farmer at February 26, 2006 07:53 PM
This is latest in Bush's disasterous presidency. It's not surprising that the same idiot who blundered the United States into a quaqmire in Iraq, is the same fool who wants to outsource the management of our ports to some Arab shieks, with some excess petro-dollars they need to get rid of.
Typically, all but one of the bloggers in the roundtable, are poo-poo-ing the entire thing as something made up by the Democrats, that should have been handled by a some more adept PR.
I'm not sure where you guys were when Clinton was outsourcing port management to the Communist Chinese, but I can tell you that a significant number of folks who voted for Bush2, didn't expect him to the continue the same sort of pea-brained liberal policies of selling out the United States to the highest bidder.
Of course, the entire utopian fantasy of 'globalization' isn't working. Supposedly, the Ayn Rand Cult Leader, Alan Greenpan types tell us that the dollars we spend for oil is supposed to come back to the USA to purchase American products and services, thereby giving us jobs.
Instead the bloody truth is these dollars are coming back to buy American assets.
We can hardly deny the Arab sheiks anything they might want can we? Because if we tell the sheiks that they are supposed to buy American PRODUCTS like the free market fundamentalism preaches, well they might reply "Screw You", and maybe decide not to deal in US dollars anymore.
And if the sheiks start dealing in Euros or Yen, and the US dollar loses it's position as the reserve currency for world trade, the entire house of cards that Alan Greenspan, the Ayn Rand Cult leader, has built will fall apart.
Yes, go right head boys, and "spin" the latest bumbling screwup away, but I think this issue is waking up a lot the Bubbas who provided Bush2 his relatively slender victory in '04.
And perhaps they'll discover that this cowboy-in-drag you've selected as your hero is not the regular guy they thought was, and he's just another blue-blood liberal, selling out the American Dream to Wall Street and the super-rich.
And stay home election day. We'll see how you'll blog that sorry fact away.
Posted by: David at February 26, 2006 11:42 PM
Hey, Ken, I think you have a new candidate for a future Pundit Roundtable here. You might want to have some napkins handy, though; it looks like David has a bit of frothing problem...
Posted by: Jay Tea at February 27, 2006 12:03 AM
Hey, I don't agree with what he says, but I like his style.
I just might give you an invite in the future David!
Posted by: Ken McCracken at February 27, 2006 12:43 AM
I don't like the "because of Human Rights violations" angle to things simply because despite our role in the world as a whole, China, Pakistan, and most of Africa have absolutely atrocious human rights records. Most of the Middle East has human rights issues. These are issue for the UN to resolve.
Here is the deal--Our US companies make hundreds of billions of dollars by operating their companies in other countries and selling US goods and Services or managing foreign operations. We operate most of the oil infrastructure in Saudi Arabia and most of the Middle East. So these countries allow the infidels that violate Shari'ah Law to run businesses on their soil, but in turn we agree to do our best to honor their wishes and not cause problems.
Why is it OK for US companies to do business in these countries? Why is it OK for Cisco or Dell or IBM or Caterpiller or Boeing or Haliburton or Walmart to operate and sell goods and services to these countries if they have human rights violations?
The ports would be managed by US managers, not by folks in Dubai. They would be managed for the most part locally and I don't think that every dock worker from now on would be named Mohammed or Akmed or Osama. We can discriminate on which companies we allow to manage ports in the US, but cannot discriminate against individual passengers of Arab descent on our Airline screening? Last I checked, the 9-11 hijackers were 18-40 year old Arab Males from high risk countries, not multinational shipping conglomerates under US Management.
This is all about political correctness and pandering to voters. The Dems were the ones saying Bush loves to "scare us" during the last election. Funny how fear works in their favor too. This is part of the far left's policy to try to overturn NAFTA and other global treaties, the WTO, and the World Bank. They cannot destroy NAFTA, but they sure can chip away at any globalization boogie man possible.
Posted by: Justin B at February 27, 2006 10:47 AM