The Spectacle Blog

Dubai to All That

By on 2.22.06 | 7:59PM

There's confusion galore over what the Dubai deal is all about. The one thing that is crystal clear is that this is a political lulu for the president. Unlike the reaction to Dick Cheney's hunting accident, none of this is press driven. Instead we see politicians reacting to a popular outcry. If, as is the current wont, the president's ports fiasco has to be compared to anything, it's more serious than, say, his selection of Harriet Miers. Rather, it's more akin to Iran-contra -- before the contra part of it was known.

When the Reagan administration sold arms to the Ayatollah's outlaw regime despite its firm public commitment never to trade arms for hostages, the public reaction was one of stunned, disappointed disbelief. That's what we're seeing now -- an administration signing off on an unexpected deal with representatives of a politics and culture the American public, for all it knows and has been told, thinks we're at war with. No Sam Alito will get the president out of this one.

The press seems to want to move in for the kill. Dubai wasn't even its lead story tonight. Rather, it was the outbreak what it apparently hopes will be real civil war in Iraq.

Buy Dane

By on 2.22.06 | 4:16PM

Wlady: What a wonderful idea. Buy Havarti, Legos for the kids, and Carlsberg for us. Here's a website that lists lots of Danish products we can buy. For those of us still boycotting France, this is an outlet for pent-up energy and saved dollars.

Re: Honor a U.S. Ally

By on 2.22.06 | 4:09PM

Today Christopher Hitchens attached this update to his call for a friendship vigil in front of the Danish Embassy:

Update, Feb. 22: Thank you all who've written. Please be outside the Embassy of Denmark, 3200 Whitehaven Street (off Massachusetts Avenue) between noon and 1 p.m. this Friday, Feb. 24. Quietness and calm are the necessities, plus cheerful conversation. Danish flags are good, or posters reading "Stand By Denmark" and any variation on this theme (such as "Buy Carlsberg/ Havarti/ Lego"). The response has been astonishing and I know that the Danes are appreciative. But they are an embassy and thus do not of course endorse or comment on any demonstration. Let us hope, however, to set a precedent for other cities and countries. Please pass on this message to friends and colleagues.

Don't forget to bring crackers for the Havarti and Legos for the kids. Save the Carlsberg for later.

Kosovo Asterisks

By on 2.22.06 | 4:04PM

As the Kosovo drama plays out around the negotiating table, loose ends twirl. Reader David Shoup took the mistaken view that I quoted the Communists on our NATO Easter bombing campaign out of opposition to them. In fact, I agree with Mr. Shoup, who wrote, "This is one time that I agree with the Communists." Who knows -- there might even be another time, someday.

That cleared up and away, anyone with one eye on Kosovo should start keeping the other glued to Montenegro. Like the Kosovars, many Montenegrins want out from under the Serbian umbrella, and they might get their way while their overwhelmingly pro-independence Kosovar neighbors get stiffed by the diplomats. This would make for an embarrassing geopolitical wedgie. Beware. Read the gory details here.

Re: Ports, Populism and Priorities

By on 2.22.06 | 4:02PM

Dear Lady G et al.: The issue isn't press strategies, dangers of having any non-U.S. companies (except the few nations we can really trust, which mean Israel, Australia and, and, oh never mind) doing it or whether the UAE is the most trustworthy of any Islamic nation. The issue is that the oversight of the port activities by the (Homer) Simpsonian D'OHS -- in those six ports and every other one -- is so poorly done it's a wonder al-Q hasn't sailed a fleet of nukes up the Potomac. And until D'OHS gets its act together, there's probably no increase in the risk we take by having the UAE company run it as opposed to any other.

This is a high-risk, high-gain strategy for the Bush administration. Having the UAE's people take charge of any asset that is essential to US national security is a huge vote of confidence in them that -- given the right diplomatic and infowar strategies to exploit it -- can benefit us as few things can. And if the trust we place in them is betrayed, it can damage us as few other things can.

Support Scooter

By on 2.22.06 | 2:17PM

Scooter Libby and his supporters are putting up a strong defense to the Independent Counsel's case against him.

As more information about Patrick Fitzgerald's case against Libby leaks out to the press, the clearer it is that there just isn't much there for the man from Chicago, who fancies himself a latter day Eliot Ness, to hang his hat on.

Libby has a new website up both for information and for folks to support him. Go there often in the days ahead.

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.