Thursday, March 9, 2006
It Walks Like a Lame Duck (and Other Brief Thoughts on Seaports and Allies)
Ever wonder what a lame duck politician looks like? Are we going to have allies or not? Why don't our newly-donned scruples about foreign management of ports apply to China? And other questions and thoughts about the seaport debacle.
In no particular order . . .
Ever wonder what a lame duck politician looks like? I'll tell you. It looks very much like a Republican US president in his sixth year. He can't run for reelection, but the Republicans in Congress are running, and they've decided he's a liability, especially on this ports thing. So they run from him en masse. First they spend like drunken Democrats (largely at President Bush's behest). That's bad enough. But now they hand him his political hat by a resounding majority. It's the ultimate modern Democratic fantasy, brought to you by the friendly Republican wind vanes in Washington. (Well, perhaps "friendly" is a bit strong.)
It's regrettable that we can't have a calm, rational discussion of the ports thing. But the Big Media Acronyms are still on their vicious destroy-Bush-at-all-costs campaign, the Democrats are too, and the Republicans are desperate to be reelected. Wouldn't they fare better -- any of these parties, really, but especially Congressional Republicans -- if they pretended to be vertebrates, at least through the election cycle? I'm actually not convinced that the American voter is obsessed with specific policy positions. I wonder if said voter is mostly looking for someone with actual principles and the communication skills to articulate them calmly, sensibly, accurately, and without condescension. Voters seem to tire quickly of self-serving, cynical calculations of temporary political advantage by either party.
On the matter of the now-defunct proposal to let a United Arab Emirates company manage some of our port operations, I'm really not certain what the best decision would have been, but I'm pretty sure it would have to have been arrived at by some process other than a feeding frenzy. It would have been especially fine to hear some serious, official discussion of questions such as these:
Legislators in the land of infinitely penetrable borders ring particularly hollow when they try to sound like they care about national security above all.
Talking heads on both sides of the political divide have berated President Bush for asking what the difference is between Great Britain, a long and faithful ally, and the UAE, a new ally with a questionable past. I think the audience to whom he was playing at that moment was likely in the Arab world, not stateside. He specifically proffered a warm embrace to Arab allies and potential allies, not a pugilistic, half-witted defense against American criticism. If you wanted to be our friend, wouldn't you glow a little inside to hear yourself compared to our greatest friend? (I accept the risk that I may be attributing too much subtlety to an administration which is often breathtakingly inept at communication.)
I still don't know what the right decision would have been. But I know the difference between heat and light in policy debates, and I know a calculated obsession with personal political power when I see it.
Copyright 2006 by David Rodeback.