2006-03-03 / Columnists

The Rockaway Irregular

Who Loves Ya, Baby?
by Stuart W. Mirsky

Every few days something else has our media and politicians riled. It started in earnest this past summer with the Cindy Sheehan brouhaha (though she now seems marginalized by her own kooky outbursts and remarkable embrace of Castro wannabe Hugo Chavez who recently insulted U.S. Secretary Condoleeza Rice by calling her “girl”). From Reality TV, Sheehan-style, we plunged straight into the Katrina crisis in September. There a breakdown at local and state levels, which wasn’t successfully backstopped by the feds, became an argument against the Bush administration, never mind the historic nature of the storm or who actually broke down and when.

Of course Plamegate came back this fall with the special prosecutor’s indictment of then Vice Presidential chief of staff Scooter Libby for allegedly failing to tell the prosecutor everything he knew concerning leaked information that no longer looks like it was really criminally leaked after all. And we got Tom Delay, under indictment by a local Democratic Texas prosecutor, Ronnie Earle, after three tries since Earle’s initial indictment collapsed because the law it alleged had been violated wasn’t even written at the time of the alleged violation. Then Bush gave his political enemies a gift by nominating Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court in an effort to please all sides (and ended up pleasing none).

we got Jack Abramoff, an admitted crooked lobbyist funneling monies to both Republicans and Democrats but who apparently sent more to Republicans (who just happen to control Congress, by the way, so why wouldn’t he do that.)

Following hard on all this we got the recent NSA eavesdropping contretemps which, after much sturm und drang, now looks headed for resolution as even administration opponents catch on to the idea that eavesdropping on terrorists phoning home really does make some sense. And two weeks ago we had the Cheney hunting accident and an ongoing tantrum by the White House press corps (and simpatico talking heads) about the “public’s right to know,” even while Cheney was agonizing over having inadvertently hit his friend with birdshot in the course of an otherwise routine break from the pressures of the Beltway.

Now the furor is about a Dubai controlled company taking over a British firm that holds a contract to manage six of our major ports.

You can barely keep up.

Here in Rockaway port security is an issue that speaks to us. Never mind that cooler heads may prevail in the end as we slowly recognize that blocking Arab firms from doing business in this country just because they’re Arab smacks of a certain unpleasant ethnic xenophobia. And never mind that 80% of American ports are operated by foreign companies already and that security remains in the hands of federal agencies in all cases. 

Never mind, too, that Dubai is actually an Arab country that has been on our side and exceedingly helpful in the war on terrorists.

The gut reaction of many is fear and this has become still another opportunity to bash the Bush administration for those who have made that a full time career.

Under the auspices of an angry and adversarial press, the country is again being worked up into a lather. Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal had it right when he recently noted that this has the look of a deliberate effort to tire the country out with one attack on the Bush administration after another until the electorate just wants a change, no matter who it is. The latest imbroglio is clearly about more than ports, just as all the prior ones were about more than what they purported to be about.

Back in November, when the Dubai deal became public, no one even raised an eyebrow . . . or an objection. But suddenly Dubai has taken center stage, elbowing the visibly distraught Cheney into the background. 

Recently I monitored two cable news shows: Lou Dobbs of CNN and Brit Hume of Fox, as both covered the Dubai issue. 

Dobbs reported this as a crisis and major threat to our security, arching his eyebrows and editorializing as he informed his viewers with his studied, self-satisfied smirk of what was ‘really’ going on. Hume, on the other hand, presented an account which explored the role of foreign entities in our ports management over the years and described how Dubai had been firmly in the U.S. camp in the war on terror.

Dobbs ran a related background story insisting the White House was wrong when Scott McClellan recently asserted that the feds were not “outsourcing” port security to foreigners.

According to the Dobbs story, while the Coast Guard protects and inspects incoming shipping, and Customs and Border Protection does oversee all unloading in our ports, the operating companies actually retain their own private security firms to protect the materials under their jurisdiction once unloaded and accepted into the country. Amazing!

So the Bush administration was wrong, claimed the Dobbs reporter, about who has responsibility for security in our ports.

Of course, every company with valuables under its jurisdiction will retain its own security for obvious reasons. But McClellan was clearly talking about security in relation to what comes into and leaves the country. Hume’s presentation made that abundantly clear while Dobbs fudged the issue. The lines are once again being drawn as a significant portion of the media follow their hearts in a blatant effort to fan public anger in hopes of finally ousting a Republican administration from Washington. It’s not for nothing that a recent study noted 80% of mainstream media journalists identify themselves as liberals or Democrats . . . or both.

rockirreg@ aol. com

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