The Spectacle Blog

Re: Ports and Populism

By on 2.22.06 | 1:58PM

Lady G, you're right that there are important dimensions to this flareup that go beyond whether or not the deal is "by the book." The White House should have grasped the political implications, and, of course, should have been aware of the deal in order to so grasp. The air-ball on this is so profound that now we have to contemplate a Bush veto on Republican-sponored legislation, with support running from Frist on down to Ehrlich -- and with Sen. Clinton looming over everything, cackling.

Who wouldn't cackle? Even if the UAE deserves every dollar of that contract, even if the UAE would execute their obligations with every ounce of due diligence, the political price to be paid for not having "gotten out front" is mindbogglingly needless. It's the difference between a missed layup and the subsequent turnover for three. This kind of accidental craziness I cannot abide. There is room for one March Madness on my calendar this year, and Redick has a lock on it.

Re: Ports and Populism

By on 2.22.06 | 1:27PM

As I understand the situation, the main problem with the UAE Ports deal for the White House deal is the communications aspect -- a problem that is becoming more and more apparent each day in the White House's dealings with the press and its inability to "handle" the news. The UAE deal has been in the works for some time, yet once again the White House seemed to find itself blind-sided. Someone in the WH Press Office needs to step up to the plate and start proactively getting the messages out. (Or someone in charge at the White House has to step in and get the press office to act like one.) To find out now that the president wasn't even aware of the deal that he then went out and defended goes beyond fiasco.

For a start, people, it's called talking points -- and everyone having the same ones.

Ports and Populism

By on 2.22.06 | 11:23AM

As I catch up here (I was traveling over the long weekend) with the news and learn more about this UAE ports deal, the less inclined I am toward the populist position. Besides it the "it looks bad" criticism, I'm not convinced allowing a UAE-owned company to run the commercial (not security) activities of these ports poses a threat. The Wall Street Journal editorial board (no Bush lackeys) is particularly persuasive today: "So far, none of the critics have provided any evidence that the Administration hasn't done its due diligence." Until I see such evidence, this tempest looks more populist than principled.

To those opposed to the UAE deal: please send articles detailing the security risks to amspecblog - at - spectator - dot - org.

The AP Re: Ports

By on 2.22.06 | 10:57AM

The Associated Press, on which the NYT drops a big spotlight, leads with the central problem in the shipping news:

President Bush was unaware of the pending sale of shipping operations at six major U.S. seaports to a state-owned business in the United Arab Emirates until the deal already had been approved by his administration, the White House said Wednesday.

Defending the deal anew, the administration also said that it should have briefed Congress sooner about the transaction...

Simply because the UAE can run our ports up to standard does not mean that they should, as a matter of sheer politics, and if politics is the art of the possible it is also the art of preventing the possible. Blowups like these are unforced errors, and recovery is dear. Should have briefed, should have been briefed -- this should have been cut off at the first pass at the first instant.

Port of Call, Part Duh

By on 2.22.06 | 9:31AM

Interesting to see how quickly Sen. Rick Santorum jumped on board to block the U.S. ports deal that Senate Leader Bill Frist jumpstarted yesterday.

In speaking with folks up on the Hill last night, we found they are unsure if they will be able to reach the numbers necessary to override, but they believe that Frist's move certainly helped them gain some traction against the White House.

We're still hearing that the consultant angle is something folks should be looking at related to the two companies that are trying to swing this deal in London. Perhaps a Senate committee with oversight should begin looking into that facet of the deal.

Garbage In, Garbage Out, Continued

By on 2.21.06 | 5:42PM

Remember that Media Matters study I mentioned on Friday? The one that purports to show that the Sunday morning talk shows are biased to the right based on their guest line up? At my request, Media Matters sent me the raw data. Here are a few of the talking heads that Media Matters counts as "neutral":

Ron Brownstein
Alan Brinkley
Alan Dershowitz
Thomas Friedman
Doris Kearns Goodwin
Ceci Connolly
Gwen Ifill
Dan Rather
Douglas Brinkley
Bob Woodward
Carl Bernstein
Jeremy Rifkin (Author of The European Dream: How Europe's Vision of the Future is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream)
Michael Scheuer (Author of Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror)

You get the picture.

SCOTUS to Re-Examine Partial-Birth Abortion

By on 2.21.06 | 3:31PM

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear Gonzales v. Carhart, examining the federal Partial Birth Abortion Act of 2003. The lower courts struck down the PBAA under Stenberg v. Carhart, a 2000 decision in which SCOTUS struck down Nebraska's partial-birth abortion law. O'Connor was the swing vote in Stenberg, and Alito is likely to swing the other way. A good thing: Stenberg is preposterous and should be overturned.

There is a slight wrinkle: the PBAA, unlike the Nebraska law, is constitutionally questionable, to say the least, on federalism grounds (as Glenn Reynolds notes). The lower courts didn't consider the federalism question, though, so the Supreme Court probably won't either.

Port of Call

By on 2.21.06 | 3:21PM

So the possibility of a Middle-Eastern-managed American port system is all it took to get the President to notice that he had this weird procedural power called a "veto"? Maybe if that bridge to nowhere had been toward North Korea we'd have seen that veto pen whipped out a bit faster and held more firmly.

This port deal is getting weirder and weirder, and we're here to tell you that when everything is said and done, it will be weirder still.

What we can't figure out, is how tone deaf both the British (selling) and the Arab (buying) firms were to possible American political concerns. Usually in such deals, the corporations involved hire a raft of consultants to assist them in this regard. It would be interesting to see whom the corporations retained for this one. No doubt a lot of money changed hands, and neither side got its money's worth.

Honor a U.S. Ally

By on 2.21.06 | 1:56PM

Last week, our Bill Tucker suggested February 28 as a day of solidarity with Denmark. Now Christopher Hitchens proposes a friendship vigil outside the Danish Embassy in Washington, and he makes an offer one can't refuse:

"...I wonder if anyone might feel like joining me in gathering outside the Danish Embassy in Washington, in a quiet and composed manner, to affirm some elementary friendship. Those who like the idea might contact me at"

No matter what you might have heard about Hitchens, he really is excellent, delightful company.

West Bank siege failure

By on 2.21.06 | 1:56PM

Discouraging report from West Bank: the IDF operation that encircled two major Al Aqsa Martyrs` Brigade bad guys in the Balata refugee camp near Nablus has failed to capture either.

Ala Senakreh may not have been inside when the IDF teams closed the circle. (This is a roughly built, ramshackle neghborhood of concrete-poured dwellings, one family unit atop another, roofs and half-basements connected by narrow, often internal ladders: it is deliberately constructed to make pursuit and capure of residents most difficult.) Ala Senakreh is the Al Aqsa leader in Nablus, where the cells are recruiting and arming the next waves of suicide belt bombers for the Third Intifadeh.