Jewish World Review Feb. 24, 2006/ 26 Shevat,
Taking a chance on love for sale
George W. Bush is about to fritter away his party's last advantage. What Republicans have had going for them is that they aren't Democrats. Over the past few days we've seen the men at the top of the Grumpy Old Party drifting toward something that looks suspiciously like an Old Boys' Party.
When he hears applause only from Jimmy Carter, who gave away the Panama Canal (now controlled by the Chinese), and Bill Clinton, his newly adopted little brother, George W. should be looking for the panic button.
Once they're no longer regarded as the toughest party on national security the Republicans will be burnt toast. Not even Karl Rove's dream of a mighty coalition of Muslims and illegal Hispanic immigrants will be enough to put Humpty Dumpty together again. "Vote Republican, we're not as bad as you think" is persuasive only as long as the tough guys put first things first. The Great Seaports Giveaway is enough to persuade a lot of Americans, including reliable and devoted friends of George W. Bush, that maybe the Republicans really are as bad as they think.
John McCain argues the point, a reasonable one, that George W.'s stubborn determination to fight the war against Islamist terror entitles him to a pass on the ports. "We all need to take a moment and not rush to judgment on this matter without knowing all the facts," the Arizona senator says. "The president's leadership has earned our trust in the war on terror, and surely his administration deserves the presumption that they would not sell our security short."
True enough, and George W. Bush still looks light-years safer than Al Gore or John Kerry. But the president's remarkable morning-after explanation that the first he knew about the sale of control of six of the nation's most important ports was what he got from the newspapers is not exactly what Americans expect to hear from a president, any president, and proves once more that trust must be earned anew every day.
The newspapers, as it turns out, are still widely read at the top of the administration. Donald Rumsfeld didn't know about the sale of the ports until he read about it in the newspapers, although his representative sat on the government panel that OK'd the sale. John Snow, the secretary of the Treasury, actually chairs that committee but he, too, sent a deputy to the meeting and had to read about it in the paper. It's not national security that worries him but whether angry Arabs will withdraw their investments from America. The protection of commercial interests, making the world safe for mergers and acquisitions, seems to interest the president and his men most.
Like every president, George W. wants whatever he says to be taken as the last word, but no president before him, not even Washington, Jefferson or Lincoln, was accorded that kind of deaf, dumb and blind acquiescence to authority. That kind of acquiescence is practically un-American.
The White House sent a panel of executives up to Capitol Hill yesterday to try to mollify the senators of the Armed Services Committee, and they were reduced to talking about how well the bureaucratic process worked. The White House does not seem to understand that the public is not outraged by a shortage of process. We trust our bureaucrats to lollygag in process. The public is outraged by the very idea of entrusting national security to those who were not our friends a decade ago, when they entertained Osama bin Laden and blocked an attempt to kill him, and who may not be our friends tomorrow or the next day.
The president argues that an ally is an ally is an ally, and appears to see no difference between our old friends the British and our new friends the emirs of the United Arab Emirates. So here's a lesson from the old country: Queen Victoria once asked her prime minister who were England's "permanent friends." Lord Palmerston replied that England had no permanent friends. "England has only permanent interests." Perhaps, as the president seems to suggest, the Arab chiefs of the United Arab Emirates who are bound to their brothers across Arabia by blood, history and religion will prove as reliable as our own English cousins. But counting on their loyalty and friendship being permanent is a risk too far. That's what the president's friends are trying to tell him.
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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.
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