Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

All ports, all the time

It looks like there’s a deal in the works that would extend the vetting period, and presumably buy time to make the case for the sale. A good thing, I think.

People need to learn more about the nature of the international shipping business. We’re not really in a position to "buy American" here, and DPW has a very substantial American presence in its senior management ranks.

Yes, there may have been some political insensitivity in the CFIUS vetting process, not to mention in the Bush Administration’s response, but much of the negative reaction smacks of pure politics.

Consider these quotes.

"This is just a screw-up," said GOP pollster Whit Ayres. "I think the base will, after some initial bluster, give him the benefit of the doubt, once they have the facts."

Gov. Mike Huckabee, an Arkansas Republican and chairman of the National Governors Association, said the deal "put a lot of elected officials in an impossible situation." He said, "The visceral reaction they got from their constituents left them no choice in opposing it."

Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, a Republican and usually an administration loyalist, thinks it may be too late for Mr. Bush to win congressional acceptance of the contract.

"This may be one of those situations where the horse may be so far out of the barn that you can’t get it back," Mr. Huckabee said.

He isn’t necessarily opposed to the deal, the governor said, but thinks the president should have made his case beforehand.

"My comfort level is good, but I have 99 other United States senators who need the opportunity to ask their questions," Frist told the Lexington Herald-Leader before speaking at a Republican dinner Saturday evening in Lexington, Ky.

"We’re behind the president 100 percent," he added. "We believe the decision in all likelihood is absolutely the right one."

I’d love to say that I find it outrageous that Mike Huckabee regards it as impossible for political leaders to resist the ill-informed emotional reactions of their constituents, and then, having resisted, to educate them. But I’m merely saddened by the democratic degeneration inherent in the response: leaders follow public opinion, they don’t form and inform it. Is it something in the water in the Governor’s Mansion in Little Rock that leads its occupants to think and behave that way?

And then there’s this:

"We knew that some in the administration were arrogant, but we assumed they were competent," Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) said. "But to be arrogant and not competent raises real questions."

"We were told that the president didn’t know about the sale until after it was approved. For many Americans, regardless of party, this lack of disciplined review is unacceptable," Jon Corzine said.

Given what we now know about the review process, both in general and in this particular case, neither observation really holds up. Shays’s only objection could be to a certain political insensitivity, which is surely not the equivalent of the kind of policy and technical incompetence he’s alleging. And Corzine is holding the Bush White House to a standard only met on television--in the "West Wing." Given the nature of the international shipping business (see above), this looked like a more or less routine technical decision that could (and perhaps should) have been made at the Assistant Secretary level. Of course, only after it looked like it was going to be politicized was it imperative that it receive high-level attention. The Bush Administration should have gotten in front of the debate, but many shouldn’t have entered it without being better-informed than they were. There’s plenty of blame to go around. In this case, the folks in the White House were perhaps insufficiently political, while the folks outside, especially on Capitol Hill, were only too willing to pander to a short-term public outburst. You decide which is the greater failing.

Discussions - 4 Comments

Imagine that, a Republican insider taking the base for granted, who would have ever expected?

"...and DPW has a very substantial American presence in its senior management ranks."

More details please?

After the way the base has behaved lately, as well as such vile panderers to the base as Lindsey Graham, I am inclined not to take the base for granted myself, in fact not to take it at all. You can have it. The base does not know everything. Often it knows absolutely no more than the Democratic base. Leaders exists for a reason and the increasingly self-referential and narcissistic blogosphere has not done away with that reason. W, so far, is not pandering to this temporarily (I hope) deranged and pavlovian base. For his leadership, I am grateful.

Selling American ports to a bunch of Arabs is the stupidest idea that’s come along since the neocons tried to convince us that the Iraqis were capable of democracy. Hatred is in the blood of those people; from the day they are born they learn two things--praise Allah and kill Americans.

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