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Gibson hosts guests to cheerlead Dubai Ports World deal

Reported by Chrish - February 23, 2006

There wasn't much new on The Big Story today 2/22/06 in the methods, just a new crisis for the Bush administration. The drill is by now familiar - blame Democrats for trying to politicize the issue (even when the opposition is bipartisan) and bring on the experts to tell us why the White House is right and we just don't know better. Today the transfer of control of six major east coast seaports to the government of Dubai, d.b.a. Dubai Ports World, was the p.r. issue.

As Greg Palkot reported from the White House lawn that Bush was unaware of Dubai Ports World taking over operations of six major US seaports until it was a done deal the video cameras followed Bush (at an airport tarmac?) walking a barrier line and shaking hands and greeting soldiers, young moms and toddlers. All together now - aaaww. look, he cares about the babies.

Palkot said that the concern over the deal is bipartisan, with House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Frist both wanting further information and time to look at it. But Palkot did get in the obligatory swipe at Democrats, saying they were "almost gleeful" at the controversey and wanting to use it to paint themselves as more hawkish on security than the Bush White House.

Comment: He's got a point. The Bush administration campaigned on fear and terror, 9/11 and national security, and Bush keeping us safe, but when the levees broke they were in total disarray. Now he is threatening his first ever veto to push a business deal that Americans of all stripes are uncomfortable with.

Next up was Senator John Warner, (R-VA, Armed Services Committee), who had an unopposed platform for 5 (five) minutes to sell the plan, saying that it was all properly vetted from a security standpoint; the UAE is a valuable ally in the WOT; and pulling out now for "emotional" reasons may send the wrong message to other Arab nations.

The follow-up to that was Amir Taheri, author and journalist familiar with the region, and (twice), "an expert". A little digging reveals that he is an Iranian-born journalist and author based in Europe. who works for Benador Associates, "a public relations firm and speaker's bureau that promotes neoconservative writers and speakers focusing primarily on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East." He is currently a contributor to the German weekly Focus as well as the National Review and the New York Post (a News Corp holding). He is an accomplished man but with a discernibly right-leaning view of the world. (Three minutes)

Asked by Gibson if we have any reason to fear the government of the UAE he said he didn't think so, because they already operate eleven other ports worldwide. and the idea that there will be "Arabs on the rampage in the ports of America" is fanciful. Gibson assured him that is not the fear. He said that Americans are willing to go so far as to allow wiretaps (Comment: sly one, John!) but are not comfortable turning over our ports. Taheri responded (essentially) that this kind of commerce goes on already, all around us, and if we want to continue free trade and free investment we can't single out this deal.

Later Michael Barone was a guest, discussing the potential political fallout from the deal. Introduced as Fox Political Analyst and writer for U.S. News and World Report, his stated political leanings are conservative. (Three-and-a-half minutes.)

His initial analysis was that the 2006 elections will hinge on turnout, and this issue may alienate enough of the Republican base to have a negative impact. He thinks the Bush administration should approach it as a teachable moment and use the opportunity to tell America what steps have been taken in the past five years to improve port security, which we don't know about because "the mainstream media has bhad very little interest in covering them." Comment: Barone IS the mainstream media - USNWR, FOX News, and NBC's McLaughlin Group are all highly visible venues where he could have reported had there been anything to report. He wound up the segment saying that this is not good for Republicans - it may not be good for Democrats, but it's definitely not good for Republicans.

Finally, 30-some minutes into the show we heard from someone - Rep. J. D. Hayworth (R-AZ) - who says we shouldn't say no to the deal, we should say hell no. While patting Republicans on the back for taking the correct position on this issue (specifically Hastert and Frist) he managed to take a swipe at Democrats and the media in one sentence. He said that "although the dominant media culture has a case of instant amnesia when it comes to the previous stance of those on the left, let's readily admit this political truism: even a broken clock is right twice a day." He then takes the obligatory shot at former President Jimmy Carter, who is being Swiftboated for his comments opposing Bush administration policies. It's the same lame line: if Carter supports it, it must be bad. Every once in a while it hits me that we're being ruled by crooks and juvenile delinquents in suits, and this guy gave me one of those moments.

Gibson asked a fascinating question (whoa!): does JD think that the Bush administration has reached a point where they just don't care if Republicans have an uphill battle in November? Hayworth replied no, he doesn't think it's a partisan issue (oops, wrong cue/talking point response) and he understands that there is a delegation of authority. However, he said, Bush's threat of a veto in response to criticisms, that drawing of "a line in the sand", was very concerning. Asked by Gibson if he would thought there was enough support to override a veto, he was emphatic in his rebuttal of this deal, saying he will vote for legislation to stop it and if it should be vetoed, he will vote to override.

This has been an interesting issue to watch unfold. For once Republicans are not toeing the Bush party-line and are so uncomfortable voting, if you will, with Democrats that they can't stop bashing Democrats even though they are on the same side.

As for Gibson's final question, I'm thinking that the Bush administration is acting like they are in power, they are staying in power, and there's nothing anyone can do about it. Once Alito was sworn in there was a palpable increase in boldness and cockiness.

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