T Nation

Frist Turns On Bush


#1

So what do the Republicans say now that their own leader is condemning this? It seemed like you guys were fine with it before.

You all are really ok with a state owned business of the UAE running our ports? Living about 15 miles from Port Newark, I'm certainly not.

Frist: Stop handover of U.S. ports to Arab firm
Senate?s top Republican adds voice to criticism of Bush administration move

WASHINGTON - Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist called Tuesday for the Bush administration to stop a deal permitting a United Arab Emirates company to take over six major U.S. seaports, upping the ante on a fight that several congressmen, governors and mayors are waging with the White House.

?The decision to finalize this deal should be put on hold until the administration conducts a more extensive review of this matter,? said Frist. ?If the administration cannot delay this process, I plan on introducing legislation to ensure that the deal is placed on hold until this decision gets a more thorough review.?

In the uneasy climate after the Sept 11 terrorist attacks, the Bush administration decision to allow the transaction is threatening to develop a major political headache for the White House.

Frist, R-Tenn., spoke as other lawmakers, including Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said they would offer emergency legislation next week to block the deal ahead of a planned March 2 takeover.

Frist?s move comes a day after two Republican governors, New York?s George Pataki and Maryland?s Robert Ehrlich, voiced doubts about the acquisition of a British company that has been running six U.S. ports by Dubai Ports World, a state-owned business in the United Arab Emirates.

Click for live vote
Does it matter where the company is based?

Experience at other ports
The British company, Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co., runs major commercial operations at ports in Baltimore, Miami, New Jersey, New Orleans, New York and Philadelphia.

Both governors indicated they may try to cancel lease arrangements at ports in their states because of the DP World takeover.

?Ensuring the security of New York?s port operations is paramount and I am very concerned with the purchase of Peninsular & Oriental Steam by Dubai Ports World,? Pataki said in a statement. ?I have directed the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to explore all legal options that may be available to them.?

Ehrlich, concerned about security at the Port of Baltimore, said Monday he was ?very troubled? that Maryland officials got no advance notice before the Bush administration approved the Arab company?s takeover of the operations at the six ports.

?We needed to know before this was a done deal, given the state of where we are concerning security,? Ehrlich told reporters in the State House rotunda in Annapolis.

The arrangement brought protests from both political parties in Congress and a lawsuit in Florida from a company affected by the takeover.

Public fears that the nation?s ports are not properly protected, combined with the news of an Arab country?s takeover of six major ports, proved a combustible mix.

?Unbelievably tone deaf?
Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina said on Fox News Sunday that the administration approval was ?unbelievably tone deaf politically.? GOP Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia said on ABC?s ?This Week,? ?It?s a tough one to explain, but we?re in a global economy. ... I think we need to take a very close look at it.?

Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey said Monday that he and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., will introduce legislation prohibiting the sale of port operations to foreign governments.

At least one Senate oversight hearing was planned for later this month.

Critics have noted that some of the 9/11 hijackers used the UAE as an operational and financial base. In addition, they contend the UAE was an important transfer point for shipments of smuggled nuclear components sent to Iran, North Korea and Libya by a Pakistani scientist.

The Bush administration got support Monday from former President Carter, a Democrat and frequent critic of the administration.

?My presumption is, and my belief is, that the president and his secretary of state and the Defense Department and others have adequately cleared the Dubai government organization to manage these ports,? Carter told CNN. ?I don?t think there?s any particular threat to our security.?

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff made the rounds on the talk shows Sunday, asserting that the administration made certain the company agreed to certain conditions to ensure national security. H said details of those agreements were secret.

During a stop Monday in Birmingham, Ala., Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said the administration had a ?very extensive process? for reviewing such transactions that ?takes into account matters of national security, takes into account concerns about port security.?


#2

I'm not convinced it's an actual problem, but it's definitely a political issue. The Coast Guard is in charge of security irrespective of the nation of origin of the Company running the commercial aspect.

Port security needs to be improved irrespective of this -- we need to have systems in place to scan incoming containers (Hong Kong apparently has such a system in place and scans 100% of the containers that go through its ports).


#3

Bill Frist is an asshole and a grandstander. As a bunch of people have posted, this is an issue being played for politics, port security is a whole different issue.


#4

Why, one has to wonder, does a company in the United Arab Emirates want to do this and with US ports of entry?

I don't care how much 'clearance' anyone gives this, I oppose this.


#5

They probably want to make money. Usually the reason people invest in things.


#6

My guess is to make lots and lots of money.

I agree with Boston Barrister that UAE ownership of ports is not realy a security threat. It is a political issue though. Even James Carville raised the question of why the US cannot manage their own ports. The ports in question were previously run by a British company.


#7

Yes, but why these in particular? I know, lots of money. But why not ports in Oslo, St. Petersburg, Barcelona or whatever?

It is only natural to be suspicious, when 2 of the 9/11 terrorist come from there.


#8

They purchased the British company that had the contract to run those ports. They didn't buy those contracts specifically.

Hot issue politically. Sounds like the cotracts will get broken.


#9

Frist has to run for re-election. He's going to go with what the general, uninformed voter will latch onto.


#10

Wow, this is interesting.

http://www.breitbart.com/news/2006/02/21/D8FTNQ400.html

The president is threatening to veto any effort to block the ports deal and, astonishingly, asking Congress to explain why there was no problem with the deal when it was with a British company but that there is now it's with company owned by an Arab Muslim country's government...

I can't say I think this is a good move politically at all -- it looks like an attempt by the President to grab some moral highground vis a vis racial profiling and racial preferences generally, but I think the net effect may be to let the Dems make up some ground in the perception of the public that they're weak on national defense issues (because most people don't seem to understand the basics of the issue).

Unless of course the Republican congressional leadership thumps him -- but that would take back what little he may have gained from this statement in the first instance. I'd say with this issue, a veto override would be a distinct possibility.

Ugh -- politics over substance.


#11

President Bush is doing the right thing here.


#12

It is a security issue. Two of the 9/11 highjackers were from the UAE. UAE does not recognize Israel as a sovereign state. UAE supported the Taliban. In the 9/11 Commission report, it is stated that Al Queda and the 9/11 terrorists including Muhhamad Atta funneled money throuh bank accounts in Dubai.


#13

Yup. But I kinda doubt he's doing it on principle. Bear in mind he has yet to veto ANYTHING.


#14

This is just feel good political BS.


#15

So, why exactly is it feel good BS? What couldn't somebody in the controlling company be influenced by other fundamentalists if they themselves had that viewpoint?

What, if anything, could they do if they wanted to?

Aren't the odds of that increased by putting a state owned company in charge of port operations when that country is predominantly Islamic?

Is that a chance the administration should take, especially given the self-admitted inability to examine enough of the incoming cargo?

Enlighten me. I need more information before I can make up my mind.


#16

When you make a law that has no material effect on something (in this case port security) yet makes you constituents feel better (in this case those that feel all Arabs are terrorists) it is feel good BS.

Add that with the fact that our borders are incredibly open and a fantastic amount of illegal substances are smuggled into our country every day I fail to see how the location of a corporate headquarters really has a significant effect.


#17

Exactly. It's all just playing politics, like the smart conservatives on here have said.


#18

Zap,

Is that all it is then, simply a relocation of corporate headquarters?

It doesn't mean that the new corporate headquarters can replace staff or put people where they want them in the supply chain leading into the ports?

Anyway, I'm not saying you are wrong. I just can't get over the feeling of insecurity that this concept brings about.

One way the issue was highlighted on TV was someone asking the question, would you place your airports under the control of an Arab country?

Somehow, I think direct national security is an area, if this really could have an impact, that overrides just about everything else.


#19

My understanding is the British firm that has been running these six ports has been purchased by a firm from the UAE.

While it is likely some changes will be made to the operation of these ports it will likely be the type of changes that happens when ownership changes (big bosses change, accounting functions become integrated with corporate, some downsizing etc.)

This certainly is an unfortunate turn of events.

On one hand if they kill the deal many will scream it is a form of racial discrimination and I think they will be right.

On the other hand it does feel funny to have a company based in the middle east running six of our ports when we are fighting a war against Islamic extremists in the middle east.

The question is do you discriminate based on a feeling?

While I have no problem with the US demanding a higher degree of cooperation regarding security issues from the UAE based company I don't think we should just kill the deal out of hand.

It is akin to deciding not to let Arabic men on airplanes. I don't mind them being searched, but they shouldn't be barred from flying if they do not have any connections to terror.

With all that being said if they go through due diligence and find this company has questionable ties to terrorists than we should kill the deal.


#20

Zap,

Yeah, I'm trying to avoid playing politics and being anti-arabic also.

I think perhaps it might be appropriate to declare it a security issue. Then, boot out the British firm and any other foreign controlled firms also.

This could apply to ports, borders, airports, coasts and anything else I'm missing.

Wait, no, I'm a liberal, I'm not allowed to have ideas on how to protect the nation... ah, I was doing so well too. :wink: