"Dedicated to exposing the lies and impeachable offenses of George W. Bush"

Dubai Harbored 9/11 Hijackers
Margaret Carlson
February 23, 2006

Feb. 23 (Bloomberg) -- I wonder what the president feels like these days as 9/11, the default card used to start wars and squelch dissent, is being played against him?

Letting a United Arab Emirates company take over six major American ports, including New York, may not be as insane as it looks. Ports are globalized, and next to, say, Iran, Dubai looks tolerable. But it will never look wise for the president to be so inattentive that he didn't know about the takeover beforehand, or stop it for further reflection once he did.

George W. Bush believes in delegating, and delegate he did, to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a multiagency body created in 1975 to assess the security risks when foreigners want to invest in this country. The commission has turned down one deal out of 1,500.

Its deliberations are shrouded in secrecy, so no one knows how the commission came to be fine with the notion that our ports should be managed by a country that is a laundromat for terrorist cash, was home to two of the Sept. 11 hijackers, and was a base of operations for a massive nuclear proliferation operation run by the Pakistani atomic scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan.

Alarmed Republicans

The commission is supposed to buck decisions of this magnitude up to the president for final review. That didn't happen here, but the president doesn't mind. He wouldn't have done things differently if he had been consulted.

But the decision alarmed just about everyone else, including Bush's most loyal lieutenants. Bush has always boasted that his steely judgment is what we want in a crisis, even though it failed him when confronted with an intelligence report headed, ``Osama bin Laden Promises to Strike Inside U.S.''

Democrats have long seen the flaws in Bush's self-regard, and with the Dubai decision, Republicans are in agreement. It's one thing to be sleeping at the switch when it's the levees in New Orleans or your vice president not revealing that he'd shot a fellow hunter, and quite another when seven families of emirs are going to oversee the ships and containers moving in and out of New York.

Congressional Republican leaders Bill Frist and Dennis Hastert can't overlook the New York docks being operated by sheiks who allow violent anti-American clerics to teach their children, don't recognize Israel's right to exist, and sometimes help capture but more often harbor terrorists inside their borders.

`Huge Mistake'

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham came out against the sale, and Tom DeLay, the former majority leader, warned the president that he had made a ``huge mistake'' that Congress would overturn.

Bush sees this as just another one of those details that a big-picture CEO, who prides himself on an empty in-box, isn't supposed to trouble himself with.

It's like the detail of whether he was cutting back on funding for alternative energies at the moment he was announcing in his State of the Union speech that he was doing the opposite. The wind- and solar-power lab in Colorado where the president spoke two days ago had to hastily rehire 32 researchers fired because of Bush budget cuts, so as not to embarrass the president who'd come to speak about getting over our ``addiction to oil.''

Can He Mean Chertoff?

He calls the lack of money to back up his proposal a ``mixed message.'' Others might see it as hypocrisy or worse. Alternative energy is going to get as much traction in Bush land as the mission to Mars he announced in his 2004 State of the Union address.

To Bush, this is an instance where the big picture is concern for an ally and global trade trumps other things. Besides, he says, the Department of Homeland Security will be riding herd on the Dubai crowd.

Can he mean Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, the so-called smart one raked over the coals for his disgraceful handling of Katrina by Republican Senator Susan Collins last week, the one who couldn't do his job because of Brownie -- or was it the other way around?

There is no professional who knows what Chertoff is doing in charge of homeland security. The department Bush built from scratch is a disgrace, largely because to Bush all civil servants are bureaucrats and the government a pinata to be hit until all the goodies are disgorged.

Oh, Why Not?

Plunder Medicare for the drug industry? Done. Give away oil royalties to the energy industry? Done. Let the oil industry write the energy bill in secret? Done. Enrich insurance companies with Health Savings Accounts? Check. Appoint a lawyer to oversee disaster relief and homeland security when there are experts in the field who've devoted their professional lives to the subject? Oh, why not?

Bush says global trade and the feelings of an ally trump all else, and that's that. He's promising to veto any bill that would reverse the decision, which would be the first such veto by a president who has let the Treasury be overrun by sinfully profligate spending.

Bush adviser Karl Rove said a while back that Republicans have a post 9/11 view of the world and that Democrats have a pre- 911 view that is profoundly and consistently wrong. He might have to extend and revise those remarks. Dividing us that way isn't going to work anymore.

To contact the writer of this column:
Margaret Carlson in Washington at  mcarlson3@bloomberg.net

Last Updated: February 23, 2006 00:10 EST