Bush keeps campaign promise

port

United we stand!

George W promised over and over again during his first presidential campaign that he would be a "uniter, not a divider," and he has finally made good on his word. Through his own arrogance and ineptitude he brought public opinion, Democrats, and Republicans together in near unanimous opposition to a business deal that would have turned over operation of six major US ports to a government-run company from Dubai.

In regards to selling American ports to the United Arab Emirates, not just NO but HELL NO!
—One-sentence letter from Representative Sue Myrick (R-NC) to GWB

As Emeril would say, "Bam!" That certainly kicked it up a notch!

For five long years, Bush has acted as if the title Commander in Chief also made him Supreme Imperial Potentate. With Karl Rove as his Macchiavelli, W has put politics, religion, and business interests above the common good and common sense. And the chickens have all come home to roost.

Bush
What?

W can't understand what all the hullabaloo is about, but it is certainly no mystery. Ever since 9/11, W has chanted one mantra, Be afraid, be very afraid! Whenever anyone opposed his proposals, he branded them unpatriotic and accused them of "pre-9/11" thinking. He and Vice morphed a justifiable retaliation against Al-Qaeda into an amorphous Global War on Terror and used it as an excuse to invade Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein who had nothing whatever to do with 9/11. It was inevitable that this would reinforce the isolationism and distrust of all things foreign that runs just below the surface of the American character.

Tony Auth cartoon
Tony Auth (Click image to enlarge)

It wasn't just that the ports deal would have put port operations in the hands of a foreign company or even a foreign-government-owned company. No, it was that Dubai is an Arab country populated by Muslims. And for once, no one was buying Bush's "trust me" pitch.

For once I think Bush is probably right on the merits: The reaction to this deal will send the wrong message to the rest of the world, particularly the Arab world. From a security perspective, it probably doesn't much matter where the headquarters of the company operating the port is located. And the long-range interests of the US surely lie in closer ties with Arab nations that do not fear modernity. But thanks to the constant drumbeat of the War on Terror, the Flat Earth Society is in the ascendency (and I don't mean that in the Tom Friedman sense). The world is now seen by Americans as a dangerous place, and the temptation is strong to build a wall around the perimeter of the U S of A.

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
—Plaque at Statue of Liberty

The national psyche has been transformed from a "melting pot" "nation of immigrants" to "fortress America" surrounded by metaphorical barbed wire and posted with "keep out" signs. The anti-immigrant hysteria that grips so many places is no accident.

On September 12, 2001, virtually the entire world reached out to the United States with understanding, sympathy, and goodwill. A skillful leader could have seized the opportunity to unite us with the world for genuine progress. That opportunity has been squandered, and the US is now isolated, viewed with suspicion, and nearly bankrupt from drunken spending. It is emblematic that on a state visit to Pakistan — supposedly our staunch ally in the War on Terror — Air Force One had to sneak the president in without lights in the dead of night.

Tom Toles cartoon
Tom Toles (Click image to enlarge)

Yes, the country is united all right, but not in a good way. Congressional opposition to the Dubai ports deal was driven far more by election concerns than by security concerns. Popular opposition was driven more by anti-Arab hysteria, in my opinion, than by knowledge and reason. What do we know, after all, other than that the company is Arab?

I sense, too, a large measure of "straw that broke the camel's back" in this whole fiasco. After a succession of botched initiatives, the Dubai ports deal had the advantage (disadvantage?) of being unambiguous and hard to spin. Unlike Abu Ghraib, it could not be attributed to a few bad apples on the night shift. Unlike Katrina, it was man-made, not an act of nature. Unlike privatizing Social Security, it involved no mind-numbing, dubious financial projections. Unlike warrantless domestic wiretapping, it could not be shrouded in classified secrecy. The frustrations and disappointments of the past five years all just boiled over — on both sides of the political spectrum — and in this case there was a clear remedy: stop the deal.

I wish W had kept his campaign promise. But not this way.

Looks like Abe was right: You can't fool all the people all the time!