In my e-mail this morning, an alert from an outfit calling itself Democrats for America's Future, claiming in screaming capital letters that "BUSH LEAVES PORTS OPEN TO ATTACK." "The White House is scheming to outsource management of America's six largest ports -- including two that account for 40 percent of the cargo needed for the war in Iraq. And to which foreigners is President Bush so eager to turn over control of our biggest and most security-sensitive ports? ... Why, the United Arab Emirates, of course!"
Wow -- what a bonanza: transparently stupid and racist to boot! With Democrats like these, who needs terrorists bent on destroying the American way of life? We're more than capable of undermining everything we supposedly stand for, right here at home.
The issue at hand is the purchase last week of the U.K.'s Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O), one of the world's largest operators of ports, by Dubai Ports World, a company based in the United Arab Emirates. The deal, according to analysts, is largely motivated by Dubai Ports World's desire to get a larger piece of booming Asian trade, but P&O also operates six ports in the U.S., a fact that has set off a firestorm of political outrage among both Republicans and Democrats.
There's been a lot of dumb rhetoric about the sale: Contrary to what politicians are saying, the United Arab Emirates company will not "own" or be running security at the ports. Nearly all American ports are already operated by foreign companies, Dubai Ports World has a sterling reputation around the world, and it just happens to be run by a senior staff that includes a bunch of, guess what, Americans.
But heck, sure, security at U.S. ports is an issue, and we could probably could do a lot more to oversee them effectively. But that's a completely separate argument from the blatant fear-mongering, racist-baiting and flat-out misinformation that Democrats for America's Future is committing.
First, George W. Bush is not "scheming" to outsource anything. Operation of these ports was already in foreign hands, and the purchase of a British company by a United Arab Emirates company is hardly a result of malign White House maneuvers. Meanwhile, as Time magazine notes, the International Longshoremen's Association workers who currently offload ships at the U.S. ports will continue to do so, regardless of who has the contracts to run the ports.
But much worse, the spectacle of Democrats joining in a chorus that attempts to paint Bush as weak on security because, horror of horrors, he isn't stopping an Arab-owned company from operating ports in the U.S. is pathetic and embarrassing. Dubai's ties to 9/11 are extremely weak. Engagement of this kind with moderate Arab countries is exactly what this world needs more of. Instead, in their attempt to score political points against Bush, these bozos are telling all Arabs everywhere that we don't trust you and will treat you as the ultimate boogeyman.
Robert Reich, James Carville and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend are among the members of the board of directors of Democrats for America's Future. They should know better.