Tuesday, June 20, 2006

You say Dubai and I say Hello

IN February of this year, the Dubai Ports deal was creating a lot of smoke and ash on the Hill after Congress only learned of the lucrative port operations contract when the White House announced that the deal had been approved. Not on our watch! fumed congressional Republicans and Democrats. More fuming ensued when a much larger scope of the deal was exposed; it would not be 6 ports but 22 major ports around the country that comprised contract operations.

Not a company used to being exposed to the sound and fury of Washington politicos, Dubai Ports World indicated that they would first delay the deal until further review but finally said they were divesting their interest of the contract completely. In fact, ABC News ran with the bold headline,
Bush loses Dubai ports deal after Republican pressure.
Bush lost the deal! Well, you didn't read that here. Here, readers would have been treated to a far more sobering version of expected events that would likely surround this issue, based at the time on the announcement of a "delay" upon review:
This compromise ... might actually play out as a win-win for both Congress and the White House. Each will engage in negotiations, tender suggestions and appear to seriously consider the issue, fully congnizant of the concerns over national security. This will be trumpeted loudly.

I'm not quite sure what will come of this. If I had to guess -- and I do -- I'd say, at this point, the deal will now go through. But only after some time, as the White House engages the good senators and representatives and the various howling organs in the media have calmed down. Perhaps another distractive "scandal" will get tossed out, something for the gnashing teeth to chew on. Meanwhile, Congress looks like it got the White House to back down, the White House looks engaging and ... the deal is closed after an appearance of due diligence by all sides.
This doesn't appear to have played out exactly like this because, as CNN is reporting, DPW has never divested itself of its interest in the contract and is still in control of 22 ports around the country.
Since March 6th, Dubai Ports World has owned and controlled operations in 22 U.S. ports and that Congress now has dropped the provision that would prohibit their approvals.

[Tucker]: The reference to Congress has to do with the House and Senate stripping out language, put in by the House, that specifically forbid DP World from owning or controlling operations in our ports. With the removal of that language, it's not clear if DPW even legally is bound to sell the properties. The announced agreement by Dubai Ports World to sell was voluntary.

While Congress is expressing confidence in the intention of Dubai Ports World, it's worth noting that Congress is also willing to employ language when it suits them publicly, then quietly remove it. It happened in this case and in congressional opposition to the surrendering of control of domestic airlines to foreign investors. Big storm, big language, quietly stripped out in committee ....

[Dobbs]:So at this point, now it's just about four months since this agreement was reached, Congress has backed away from its language. Dubai Ports World has not acted. CFIUS, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, has said that it reserves the right to make Dubai Ports World do what it said it would do publicly. So you're not suggesting, are you, Mr. Tucker, in your reporting here, well, let me rephrase that. Is it a reasonable inference that the American public, the American citizens are being gamed again by this administration and this Congress?
Oh Lou! You're so cynical!

Congress' and the White House's appearance of due diligence now may have to go in for a make over; maybe some more noise with a bit of genuflecting to national security but the major furor has died down. This was primarily aided by the discretion of then outraged Republicans like Peter King (R-NY), who now seems fine, both with Congress having stripped out language that forbade DPW from ownership and with the continued ownership of the operations contract by the company.

Don't look for this story to generate the same kind of heat it did earlier. In fact, I think we can all expect it to go away, despite Dobbs attempts to rekindle the rage. Whatever political pick-up sticks various congressional members think they may have grabbed are already in hand. Service to themselves over the issue is complete. And that is what it was really all about.


Blogger Kel said...

Bhc, 10 out of 10 for the best headline I've seen all year.

3:55 AM  

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