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Port debate took advantage of public

Our president attempted to ramrod through a deal that would give operation of six major U.S. ports to a company owned by an Arab nation. This at a time when the Middle East is a hub for violence against Americans, and we are engaged in warfare within the borders of two Mid-East nations.
Did President Bush nearly give Muslim radicals the keys to the front door?
Was this temporary insanity?
No, this was political positioning by a Congress that will go down in history as one of the most powerless ever. It is, after all, an election year.
A showdown between the president and Congress has been brewing for a long time. On policies like those pertaining to national security, even members of appropriate Congressional sub-committees often find themselves out of the loop.
And that’s why in contrast this president is said to be one of the most powerful ever. It’s not a reference to our military or his bench press. It’s a reference to how little he is checked and balanced.
But when could Congress strike?
The ideal time would require an issue on which the president refused to compromise despite overwhelming disapproval among the American people. And the moment arrived last month.
The president did little to inform the public and preempt controversy, but we should be used to that by now. He did, however, let Congress know they could expect a veto if they got in the way.
The United Arab Emirates-owned DP World company was to operate ports in Philadelphia, Miami and other cities. Americans don’t know much about the UAE, but those following the news know it was home to two 9/11 hijackers.
The president should have known that little detail was going to be a problem. He should have known it as certainly as a father knows when his child has a peanut allergy. But he didn’t prepare us.
And so a mental image followed of 9/11 terrorist types hijacking the City of Brotherly Love and making six port cities look like Omaha Beach. Cargo containers were imagined stacked with crates full of dirty bombs, Klashnikov rifles and anthrax.
Congress fueled a prejudice that its members knew was unjustified. They united and stood up to the president with a veto-proof majority. Unfortunately, it was all meaningless, unless it inspires some voter confidence this fall.
Here’s what Congress knew and what the president should have been telling us upfront:
Foreign companies holding Port Authority leases process about 75 percent of the cargo containers coming into the United States. Those companies are NOT responsible for national security concerns and neither are domestic companies at other ports.
The Coast Guard, Customs and Border Patrol each have a variety of responsibilities related to policing all things bound for the interior.
While we worry about who employs the package handlers only a quarter of ships entering our waters are being boarded and about seven percent of cargo containers are being searched.
Though it would be ideal for these ports to be leased by American companies, doing so requires a lot of investment capital. DP World got into the position it was in by being the highest bidder.
That being said, no one wants to put a sworn enemy of the United States in charge of loading and unloading at a port. North Korea, Iran and Osama need not apply.
The United Arab Emirates isn’t part of that fraternity. In fact, it’s very different from what Americans have been allowed and encouraged to imagine in recent weeks.
Two hijackers were natives of the UAE, but you can’t judge a nation by the actions of one or two individuals. Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, was a decorated veteran of the U.S. Army.
We clearly need to know more about the UAE.
DP World’s headquarters is in Dubai, home to the Dubai Tennis Championships where Andre Agassi, Lindsay Davenport, Roger Federer and other stars competed a couple weeks ago.
On March 25, Dubai will host the 11th Dubai World Cup horse racing event. The so-called ‘World’s Richest Race’ boasts a $6 million purse.
The UAE has an income comparable to that of a Western European nation. And Dubai has a skyline as modern as any Western city.
Amongst all that modernism and money, 9/11 hijackers withdrew cash from Dubai banks before the attack. Some view this as complicity. But Dubai is the Switzerland of the Middle East when it comes to banking. A lot of people make a lot of transactions.
As a nation the UAE has been a supporter of the War on Terror, and its people are disappointed by what they view as an unfair characterization during the DP World ports debate. They aren’t angry. There has been no rioting in the streets, but there is certainly disappointment.
The president failed to lead when he briefly addressed the deal and told Congress to butt out. Congress seized the opportunity to mislead and fed our ignorance of the issue.
The American people have to demand better than this. We have a lot of checking and balancing to do.

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