What has happened? To put it simply, radical Islamists have won a war of intimidation. They have cowed the major news media from showing these cartoons. The mainstream press has capitulated to the Islamists -- their threats more than their sensibilities. One did not see Catholics claiming the right to mayhem in the wake of the republished depiction of the Virgin Mary covered in cow dung, any more than one saw a rejuvenated Jewish Defense League take to the street or blow up an office when Ariel Sharon was depicted as Hitler or when the Israeli army was depicted as murdering the baby Jesus.
The Spectacle Blog
You wouldn't know it to look at him. "Woody" Williams is a cheerful guy, now in his later years. He teaches Sunday school at a church near his home. And, as you might expect, he speaks softly and always has a kind word. His smile is a real delight.
Sixty-one years ago today, Woody Williams fought -- for four hours, crawling back and forth through machine gun fire to get more ammunition and refill his flame thrower -- and cleared a path for his fellow Marines to break through Japanese lines on Iwo Jima. For this, he received the Medal of Honor. And, more importantly to him, he saved the lives of a lot of Marines. God bless you, Woody. I'll try to call you later.
You're right about this being a loser for the President. With my background in advertising and corporate communications, I believe I can fill in what happened.
Obviously, DPW and P&O have been talking about this acquisition for some time. You don't just pull a multi-billion dollar deal out of your back pocket on a whim over lunch. The Saudis are extraordinarlily media savvy. They would have had a corporate p.r. firm getting their country into the news in a positive way, from America's point of view, starting many months ago. DPW didn't do that. Nobody clued them in that such a deal might run into a buzz saw in the United States. This amounts almost to corporate nonfeasance.
Second major problem, the Commerce Department did not communicate about the merger to any of the rest of the administration until the decision to approve the deal was made. That speaks volumes about bad communication within the Bush administration.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 www.scooterlibby.com both for information and for folks to support him. Go there often in the days ahead.
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.