Did you hear the one about Dick Cheney, a priest and a rabbi walking into an Arab-run port?
No? Too bad, because the brouhaha that has replaced Cheney-mania is a lot less entertaining. This week brought a strange bipartisan convergence over, of all things, the commercial management of U.S. ports.
Bipartisan consensus is often a troubling sign, particularly when it's on an issue few know much about. It was prompted by the Bush administration's decision to defend the bid by Dubai Ports World, based in the United Arab Emirates, to buy the British-owned Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co., which currently runs six U.S. ports. The deal was unanimously approved by the administration committee charged with reviewing the national security implications of foreign acquisitions.
In response, Republicans and Democrats alike have gone batty.
For five years, Republicans have chanted "trust the president" on national security. They even won elections on the issue. For nearly five years, Democrats have said President Bush should use more carrots and fewer sticks in his diplomacy in the Muslim world. They argued that we need to reward our allies with trade and trust (except when we actually did it in places such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia). Liberals lectured that equating "Muslim" or "Arab" and "terrorist" is not only bigoted but counterproductive, in that it will feed the "root causes" of terrorism.
But suddenly, virtually all leading Republicans and Democrats - with the laudable exception of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. - now argue that Bush can't be trusted on national security, that our Arab ally the UAE should go suck eggs, and that racial profiling of foreign firms is just fine. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., now even thinks Halliburton should run the ports. And Jimmy Carter is backing the White House.
At this rate, Barbra Streisand will soon be holding benefit concerts for Pennsylvania's conservative Sen. Rick Santorum.
The one guy clearly sticking to his principles is CNN's Lou Dobbs. But that's because he went bonkers a long time ago. The perfectly coiffed millionaire anchor has anointed himself the defender of Joe Sixpack, opposing every manifestation of globalization (save for CNN International, of course). He's perfected the art of the highbrow demagogue, maintaining a perpetual state of shock about how those fat cats are giving guys "like us" the shaft.
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