Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A big win for demagogues

Commentary by Pat Murphy


Pat Murphy

The Republican and Democrat lynch mob that ganged up to scuttle the Dubai Ports World contract to manage U.S. ports engaged in the ugliest of self-serving politics behind a facade of concern about terrorism.

For their part, Republicans skittish about President Bush's sliding popularity wanted to show homefolks they could stand up to and oppose a Bush policy and beat their chests. Democrats, who don't know what they stand for on most days, jumped in to help sink the knife deeper into the president.

No matter that none of them had any evidence that the Dubai firm, highly regarded around the world, was a risk. But—aha!—it's an Arab company and Arabs, to the mind of demagogues in search of whipping boys, are equivalent to terror.

What's this? The U.S. Navy, it turns out, has a $50 million contract with another Dubai port management firm, Inchcape Shipping Services, to care for Navy vessels in several southwest Asia and Middle East ports and doesn't seem concerned.

And then there's the huge China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO), whose vessels not only carried 12 percent of the cargo between communist mainland China and the United States, but also manages the huge port of Long Beach, Calif., where COSCO plans to expand its holdings to more than 300 acres.

Does Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton, who wants to legislate all foreigners out of running U.S. ports as part of her makeover to run for president, now want the Navy to cancel its contract with ISS as well as order the president to tell the Chinese company to pack up and leave the California port?

(One wonders where the U.S. space program would be if a post-World War II Congress had refused help from German rocket scientists who eventually developed the successful program.)

Congress certainly is in no position to act boorish about foreigners—especially since (a) the U.S. is the world's largest debtor nation and dependent on hundreds of billions of dollars in foreign investment to cover debt and (b) must rely on the likes of booming Dubai and other Arab states for major orders of airliners and other big-ticket items.

So, are Americans impressed with the high and mighty bipartisan "courage" of congressmen to stiff President Bush on a phony terror issue involving foreigners?

The real threat to U.S. ports are a lackadaisical president and Congress that've done precious little to improve on the 7 percent inspection rate of ships and cargo that're the responsibility of U.S. authorities, not foreigners.

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