Bubba Boots Dubya Outta the Dubba-Wide, or: Dubai, Cruel World

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Left-wing Bush opponents have spent six years fuming about an exquisitely irksome trait in George W. Bush's character: He's not really a man of the people! He's actually really rich and stuff! Now, they're so eager to join the frenzy over the Dubai Ports World deal that they're not even savoring the moment they've been praying for: For the first time, Bush has been completely out-populisted. And by Democrats, for Christ's sake!

If there's one thing the DPW dustup proves, it's that Bill Clinton really was a better Man of the People than George W. Here's why:

There's a very short list of concepts the president needs to spell out:

• The DPW deal is just a contract for services—the Arabs are not going to own our ports.

• This doesn't involve port security, and if opponents think there's a security risk they haven't provided any evidence for that.

• It's in our best interest to be engaging "moderate" Arab business types like our friends in the UAE, where gay marriage is legal and every citizen is the CEO of a private company that does nothing but manufacture "I Love America" bumper stickers.

•Yes, it seems scary to be turning over port services to this foreign company, but actually this kind of transnational deal carries many benefits, among them blah blah blah…

• It's not true that foreigners will be doing all our port services. All the employees will still be Americans. In fact, I've had my brain trust run the numbers and calculated that this deal will actually create umpteen new jobs.

• The fact that DPW is state-owned isn't substantially different from, say, Continental buying some planes from the heavily subsidized Airbus.

• And so on.

It's a simple bunch of talking points, but it's become very difficult to get out there because we're in the heat of a full-scale populist panic, and against a populist panic only a golden tongue can argue logic. Bush has been caught totally flat-footed. He tried first to play the race card—a tactic that worked back in 2003, when skeptics made the absurd, bigoted, America-hating claim that Iraq's factions might be just as happy attacking each others' mosques as voting for a new future together. But the race card doesn't work because a) it's not 2003 anymore, b) a general opposition to Arabs is a badge most Americans would wear proudly by this point, and c) go hold hands with another oil sheik, Gaylord.

His next gambit was what they call in The Sunshine Boys the A-1 material: I'm the President, so it's my way or the highway. That argument's worth nothing because what, after all this time the first veto you're going to use is in favor of some screwy deal to give away our country to a bunch of Arabs?

So that leaves only rhetorical Plan C: Terrorist terrorist terrorist, war war war, I've made my decision and these questions aren't helpful. You can see why that one doesn't work.

Who could get out of this fix?

I'll tell you who: NAFTA-era Bill Clinton, that's who! Explaining stuff like this is what Bill Clinton lived for. Just think back to that Clintonian love of factoids, that congenial explanation of the benefits that you, the listener, will directly receive, that enthusiastic drive to get you to share the president's love of policy minutiae. Clinton was great at this stuff because, whatever else he was, he was a man of the people. He understood (as Bush does) the benefit of a barrier-free market that might leave, say, Dubai Ports World providing services to American harbors. And he knew that populist panics are stupid and almost always wrong. But unlike Bush, he realized that populist panics come from deep within people's hearts, and that you have to respect that. (It just sweetens the deal that this time the populist panic is being driven by another Clinton, that Around the Way Girl in the Yankees cap who always has her finger firmly up the ass on the pulse of the Average American.)

Will Bush weather this storm? All signs say yes: A PR machine that can turn Sunday's The Vice President had "one beer" and then shot a guy story into Wednesday's Why is the media picking on the Vice President and why hasn't the guy who was shot apologized already story can do pretty much anything. Allahu Akbar, DPW! Welcome to our ports!

NEXT: Sideways

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  1. Bush has been lousy at explaining this deal. I guess having played the protectionist card in the past (steel, for instance), it is a bit odd for him to play to the laissez-faire one now, but perhaps better late than never.

  2. Hmmmm…the hand-holding photos don’t show.

    Anyone knows where those are mirrored?

    Oh, BTW, the whole hand-holding business is irksome as fuck. I experienced it myself on a trip to the camel-riding world; it’s completely non-faggy, so even the inbred hicks shouldn’t get worked up about it. But boy, is it annoying.

    Probably the whole thing just comes from being starved for physical contact in a world w/o girls. I mean, they can freak out and pout all they want, but the jokes on them. They are the ones who have to live in the world they’re protesting for.

    *-O)):~{>

    (Mohammed with bomb in turban, see http://muttawa.blogspot.com/)

  3. They’re really trying to get the public in full panic mode.

    This morning I flipped to Headline News and the story they lead with at the top of the hour:

    Foreigners control our drinking water!

    And they want to buy more and more of OUR country.

    They had a talking head to say a few bad things about foreign ownership of OUR airlines: “Might make it difficult to transport our troops”

    Another opined that having foreigners own OUR telecommunications companies might make it more difficult for the FBI to implement wiretaps!

    They didn’t put anyone on air to suggest that foreign investment might me a good thing, although the reporter did offer that businesses really just want to make a profit and not cause trouble that might hurt those profits.

    Between stirring up the Americans against Foreigners buying up our country and getting the Muslims to freak out over those cartoons, I’d have to say the Illuminati are doing a good job of getting setting the stage for some nefarious plot.

  4. You can dismiss the reaction as a “populist panic,” but there are two eternal realities that officials in a democratic government need to keep in mind:

    1) Just power comes from the consent of the governed

    2) Ordinary people are not going to know the ins and outs of policy minutae, and are going to need to have the issues laid out for them to make a sufficiently informed choice.

    In so many ways, this administration is adverse to treating the demos as the boss/client/sovereign that it is. This cock-up is just the latest example.

  5. I agree with Tim. Like the Cheney shooting incident, there’s really nothing of substance to see here. But also like the Cheney shooting incident, the WH badly bungled the PR.

    Karl Rove must be losing his touch. Or is this just part of a complex master plan to distract Americans from something else? Hmmmmmm.

  6. I’m just struggling with the idea that Bush has the open society high ground here while the Dems flex their national security muscles. Its Bizarro politics.

  7. Yeah, if only We the Peepul had somebody up there who talks like we do, we could figure out all this darned furiner confusion. Too bad that Kerry guy didn’t work out, he seemed like an awful smart fella.

    This whole conflagration is weirder than weird. I figure if they took a vote the Congress couldn’t even agree on how often you should brush your teeth, so to see this apparently spontaneous generation of One Congressional Mind makes me wonder if I shouldn’t check basement to see if there’s any pods down there.

  8. True.
    Clinton could have explained this.
    In the meantime Billary is sitting on Dubya and has a full Nelson on him.

  9. I’m with Jason. This is Bizarro World. Whatever one thinks of the issue, it’s just freakin’ weird that Bush is threatening a veto over THIS. Not the gazillion dollar Medicare boondoggle, not the steel tarriff, not the gazillion dollar bridges to nowhere, not the pork laden farm bill. No, he will use his veto power in a dispute over a contract to run a few ports. Rather anticlimactic.

    And then we have our conservatarian posters crying “racism” because some posters don’t trust a Middle Eastern monarchy.

    Yesterday we had a bunch of people saying “As long as there are government regulations in place it’s all good” while joe was saying that government regulations are no substitute for a good private contractor.

    I don’t have a strong opinion on the issue, but, DAMN THIS IS WEIRD!

  10. “I’m just struggling with the idea that Bush has the open society high ground here while the Dems flex their national security muscles. Its Bizarro politics.”

    Politics is about 2 things, neither of which involve principles or ideals:

    1. Getting elected. Whatever gets you votes, or perhaps more importantly, makes your opponent lose votes, is what must be done.

    2. Cronyism. People pony up good money and lots of time to get you elected. They expect ROI, and speaking from local knowledge, you don’t get far in the party unless the brokers have a skeleton in your closet that they can hold over you if you suddenly grow a conscience in office.

    Viewed in that light, there is really nothing strange about this deal, especially when you consider the administration has spent the last 4 plus years trying to scare the bejesus out of everyone that without democracy in the middle east, there will be mushroom clouds in the sky. And since there still isn’t functioning democracy in the middle east, well, it’s only to the donkey’s advantage to try to play the security card. Meanwhile, there are some very important donors to be re-paid for the elephants.

  11. joe, this administration? I’d say that the number of people at all levels of government and in all branches who genuinely understand that they are our servants and not our masters is becoming vanishingly smaller every single year. I think it’s been a trend for a good 30 or 40 years.

  12. “You can dismiss the reaction as a “populist panic,” but there are two eternal realities that officials in a democratic government need to keep in mind:

    1) Just power comes from the consent of the governed”

    That doesn’t refute the fact that it is, in reality, a populist panic. And populist panics tend to crowd out rational discussions. I know you’re on the “other” side of this issue, Joe, but, just think about other populist panics of the populace (say that 3 times fast!). Think about the panic over gay marriage, or gay adoption, or abortion. The issue here is not whether The People give you a pass; it’s how much the panic obscures rational debate. The fact that you sidestepped that all by tossing out a red herring like “power comes from the consent of the governed”, well, it reaks of a copout. Of course what you say is true, but it’s peripheral to the points that Tim laid out.

    “Ordinary people are not going to know the ins and outs of policy minutae, and are going to need to have the issues laid out for them to make a sufficiently informed choice.”

    Then read a fucking news story (rather than relying on idiot Dubya or Mouthpiece McClellan for your infomashun). As much as I loathe GWB, I don’t understand why it’s his job to educate the public on policy minutae.

    “In so many ways, this administration is adverse to treating the demos as the boss/client/sovereign that it is. This cock-up is just the latest example.”

    Agreed there—but Dub’s lack of adequate education of the public is still no excuse for being ignorant of the facts and resorting to, ta-da, populist panic!

    Sure, Idiot could have handled it better. And Clinton probably would have handled it better. But a lackluster PR campaign is still no excuse for ignorance. Scott McClellan h’aint the only place to get your news, boys.

  13. This is just politics as usual. In other words pretty disgusting. As the facts of the deal begin to trickle out it is becoming increasingly clear that this is not the end of the world that bogs congress and the media have made it out to be,

    The Bush administration has certainly done a very poor job of getting information out on this story, and their response to to the public reaction has been dismal. That they could not anticipate that people would see an Arab government controlled company taking over port terminal operations would alarm people is frightening. I don’t know how they didn’t foresee that all of the intervening detail would be lost and the story would be simplified to Arab government buying U.S. ports.

    The truth is that most people have no idea how ports operate. It is just not a part of their lives. What the Bushies should be doing is making this understandable to those people. Use and airport analogy. Lot’s of foreign run, even government owned, airlines run terminals at airports. They don’t own the airport. They don’t provide security for the airport. They provide a place to load and unload cargo – passengers. A shipping port works the same way.

    My own initial reaction was somewhere between skeptical and you’ve got to be f**ing kidding. It was not a reaction based on facts and reality. The more of the facts and reality I learn the less of a problem I have with the whole thing. Eventually reason will win out over gut reaction.

  14. the UAE, where gay marriage is legal and every citizen is the CEO of a private company that does nothing but manufacture “I Love America” bumper stickers

    Uh… not quite. I think the deal should be defensible without resorting to delusional fanstasy.

  15. Corn syrup is good for your health! Much safer than cane sugar.

  16. “The truth is that most people have no idea how ports operate. It is just not a part of their lives. What the Bushies should be doing is making this understandable to those people.”

    Again: Why is it the Bush Administration’s job to save people from their own ignorance? Ugh, I feel dirty, actually defending the white house. Damn you! Anyway…maybe in terms of public relations, said education would be a good strategy; in any other terms (say, rational ones?), it’s not the president’s fault that people are ignorant about an issue that they want to rant about.

    So, good PR, but that’s it. And to be honest, I can’t jump on board with a wave that comes down on El Idiot for not shelling out the right PR strategies. He’s done enough horrible shite—we don’t need to whine about bad PR! It’s like yelling at Sauron for not wiping after he takes a dump. Yes, it’s in bad taste, but there’s worse offenses to be worried about.

  17. Live long and prosper, Phil.

    Have a nice day, Phil.

    Happy belated Valentine’s Day, Phil.

    May the Force be with you, Phil.

  18. Anyone else notice how these crises seem to emerge over the weekend, reach blog-media-hysteria status by Monday night, late-night comedian saturation by Tuesday night, actual rational evaluation by Wednesday, rebuttal status by Thursday and are forgotten by Friday?

  19. joe, this administration? I’d say that the number of people at all levels of government and in all branches who genuinely understand that they are our servants and not our masters is becoming vanishingly smaller every single year. I think it’s been a trend for a good 30 or 40 years.

    I couldn’t agree with you more, Phil. “Public service” seems to mean: Enrichment of politicians, their families, and cronies; Don’t cross me because I’m (the mayor, on the city council, on the zoning board, a cop, etc.)and can make life difficult for you; and the laws we pass for socie people don’t apply to us.

    It doesn’t really matter which party’s in power. Of course, my views may be skewed by my hometown’s political record.

  20. Ed, that’s a good point – I think it’s a product of the media cycle, and the administration’s attempts to control it (Yes, all administrations do it). Potentially bad news gets released close to the weekend, with the hope that it will be ignored or fade in importance before the start of the next week.

    I would guess it’s part of the reason Bill Maher does his show on fridays.

  21. DAMN THIS IS WEIRD!

    All we need now is gaius saying that this episode marks a reversal in the downfall of western society and Gunnels telling someone “Wow, you haven’t embarrassed yourself. I now understand your viewpoint. I guess you have done more research on this topic.”

    At which point, I’m going home to wait for the end.:)

  22. THE HEALTHY FEARS BEING EXPRESSED PROVE THAT WESTERN CIVILIZATION IS FINALLY ON THE RIGHT TRACK. I’M CONFIDENT ABOUT THE FUTURE.

  23. Wow. I’d love to make a well thought-out post full of substance right now instead of repeating internet memes, posting pictures of funny owls, and joking with VM, but I’m busy at this productive job I’ve been working at.

    Maybe I’ll have time when I get home, since I don’t have a girlfriend, or even any good dating prospects.

  24. Dubya and Dubai have 60% of their letters in common. Makes you think.

  25. Please keep on arguing in favor of the UAE port deal.

    Anti-corporatism and the lobbyist (free speech=bribery BS) corruption that comes with it is a great anti-bush campaign issue.

    Snow was the insider/lobbyist in this UAE case.

    Neolibertarians can really hurt the corporatist agenda by continuing their crusade for the rights of corportate citizens, especially corporate citizens like the UAE.

    A 7 shiek owned nation that has it’s fingers in nuclear proliferation, drug money laundering, and financial aid to queada and hamas.

  26. When will exxon mob declare itself a nation, like the UAE did?

    The capital can be an offshore oil refinery.

    Hail, hail Exmob-onia! (sung to the tune of “Hail Freedonia”)

  27. amazingdrx, when do you take your first bonghit of the day?

  28. first bong-hit

    I would guess just as soon as they release his arms from the straight-jacket.

  29. The near unanimous dissent on the part of Congress on this issue should not surprise anyone. They are all a bunch of demagogic populists who know where their bread is buttered. This is why from time to time we have stupid things like congressional hearings that haul our oil company executives to be grilled. It is not that they actually think this bullshit, but they know their ignorant constituents think this bullshit, and they have shown time and again they will sell out their principles in a heartbeat to gain votes.

    Or it could be that Congress actually believes the bullshit. They is ignurrint after all too.

  30. Well, about the only thing that would have got me thinking maybe this deal isn’t so bad is for every single effing parasite and blowhard in Congress to come out against it.

    And they did! But just when I was about to get behind the Chimpler on this one, McCain comes out for it!

    Which had me back to thinking that it must be a bad idea.

    And then Carter came out for it too, which sealed the deal.

    This is bad idea. Chimpeachment W. Quailiburton, who apparently was for it before he knew about it, and the biggest authoritarian a-hole in the Senate, AND the biggest dink ever to be kicked out of the White House, can’t possibly be right.

    But that puts me back on the side of the parasites and blowhards. Well, strange bedfellows, I guess.

  31. R C-

    joe’s against it.

  32. [sound of head exploding]

  33. 10 million containers enter this country every year without being thoroughly inspected. Now that’s good security.

  34. You guys are funny

    A-and what else is funny is the Hysteric-in-Chief’s nonstop festival of fear. George W Peron has been using the boogeyman to terrrize(sic) America for the past four and a half years, and now he seems to be having a bit of trouble keeping it all under control. Maybe some boogeymen are more useful than others.

    What kind of consequences d’ya call them?

  35. thoreau, damn this is weird
    for a measley 6.5 billion don’t you think that dickie and cheneyburton could have picked up this deal? better yet our own govt. who pisses that much away in iraq in a month.now that’s weird.

  36. gaius used capital letters. R C agrees with joe. The end is nigh.

  37. The Bizarro email addresses above are more great examples of this particular sub-sub-genre of humor.

  38. Nice Bullwinkle-style title.

  39. I have never in my life been as confused about what is going in in our country as I am in 2006. I think it’s not unreasonable to start considering putting gasoline in glass bottles and taking to the streets. The elected officials in Congress and the appointed officials in the WH need a red hot poker up the ass to remind them that there are real people who do real work and we aren’t as dumb as TV makes us out to be.

    May not know how to fix it, but i certainly know how to break it.

  40. I have never in my life been as confused about what is going in in our country as I am in 2006. I think it’s not unreasonable to start considering putting gasoline in glass bottles and taking to the streets. The elected officials in Congress and the appointed officials in the WH need a red hot poker up the ass to remind them that there are real people who do real work and we aren’t as dumb as TV makes us out to be.

    Dude, what does that have to do with this post?

    Furthermore, what does that have to do with ANYTHING?

  41. Hmmm… after a day of defending the anti-DPW position, I think I’m leaning towards the pro-DPW position.

    There may be some genuine concerns here, but we don’t have enough solid evidence of a security threat to give DPW the shaft. An out-of-hand rejection of the DPW deal could seriously alienate the fledgling (very fledgling!) pro-trade, pro-capitalist and pro-globalization movement in the Middle East. Without hard data on DPW’s security flaws, I don’t think we can provide a satisfactory justification for the current congressional/popular heart attack. I’m afraid Congress is only making itself look (more) silly and reactionary.

  42. why does anyone still think bush is serious about national security? aside from this (which looks bad, though its hard to know how dangerous it is) hes recieved failing grades from the 911 commission. and plus if he was really serious about national security would he appoint micheal brown to head fema?

  43. gaius used capital letters. R C agrees with joe. The end is nigh.

    Not quite. I haven’t taken Jennifer’s advice on child-rearing yet.

  44. I’m afraid Congress is only making itself look (more) silly and reactionary.

    I’ll note that this is pretty much what went on over the attempted Chinese purchase of Unocal.

    A company owned by a foreign, non-western government wants to gain control over a US interest. The proposed deal passes all vetting. Then Congress freaks out and turns it into an opportunity to be demagogues playing on the nationalistic prejudices of the electorate.

    Bleah.

    I’ll also note that Congress didn’t seem to have suffered from their protectionist stance in that previous fiasco. Maybe they even learned from it to be that much more aggressive this time.

  45. the one question i would have liked to have seen someone ask the executive from DPW the other day on cnn is
    Why in the world would a middle eastern company want to take on this kind of risk?
    if the most minute part of any piece of any device involved in any threat succesful or not to american citizens on american soil can be proven to have come through one of their ports who is going to be the fall guy?
    has DPW not stopped and questioned whether they arent being set up as a scapegoat?
    Are we to assume that this company was just developed to be used as the trojan horse in a terrorist plot?
    If such is the case then these guys are a lot more sophisticated than hollywood has told me.

  46. [i]I have never in my life been as confused about what is going in in our country as I am in 2006. I think it’s not unreasonable to start considering putting gasoline in glass bottles and taking to the streets. The elected officials in Congress and the appointed officials in the WH need a red hot poker up the ass to remind them that there are real people who do real work and we aren’t as dumb as TV makes us out to be.[/i]

    [B]Stephen Crane wrote[/B]
    Dude, what does that have to do with this post?

    Furthermore, what does that have to do with ANYTHING?

    –This story should be a non-issue, but the fumbling, ham-fisted lying the administration and Congress has shoveled into our faces really asks the question “How dumb do they think we are?” How many more “plausable deniability” stories are we willing to stomach? Why are we escalating the war on drugs, spending money we don’t have on drug benefits for seniors, and looking to expand the scope of the Iraq/Afghanistan conflict to Iran and/or Syria? To lock the people into a course of action that will make them perpetually indebted to the government. This isn’t a conspiracy, this is just perpetual war to secure our peace and buying old peoples’ votes with young peoples’ money.

    I’m saying that I am tired of the sunshine and blue sky the current administration is selling. We have thousands of soldiers coming home crippled for a war that won’t turn a profit. Russia and China are beating us to the punch with Iranian deals to secure energy supplies, and unless Nigeria and Venezuela settle down, the price of oil will remain high. We’re allowing Saudi Arabia to assume a level of power that frankly hurts our long term stability. We need to spread our energy risk exposure over a larger number of provider nations, and allowing Nigeria and Venezuela to screw around while we muddle through getting the lights back on in Iraq only makes us more dependent on the House of Saud.

    While we the people are distracted by who provides services to our ports and if we are getting our prescriptions drugs cheaper and if Dick Cheney is a mean drunk are missing the point: what happens in 5 years? What happens in 10? These long term commitments to war and energy manipulation are plenty suspicious coming from the family known for it’s neopotism, headed by and ex-CIA chief, and chock full of millionaire oilmen.

    Hence, fire may be the answer. And lots of it.

  47. Yes, Clinton’s defense of NAFTA was his highwater mark. Of course, that was before he proved to be a pathological liar.

  48. Evan, “That doesn’t refute the fact that it is, in reality, a populist panic. And populist panics tend to crowd out rational discussions.”

    My point is, populist panics are more likely to happen when people are given the mushroom treatment (kept in the dark and occasionally given a load of crap). Rational debate over the issue might have been a lot easier to achieve if there had been an open debate beforehand, rather than the public being presented with a done deal, and being attacked for asking questions. That’s what gets people’s backs up.

    “As much as I loathe GWB, I don’t understand why it’s his job to educate the public on policy minutae.” Because the government works better, and the relationship between the public and their government is better, and people behave more responsibly and reasonably, when the government acts with openness.

  49. Lots of people upthread using the term “Public Relations” to describe what the White House handled badly. Well, yes and no.

    This isn’t a question of the government not doing a good enough job selling this product like Pepsi.

    It’s about how the White House relates to the public on a substantive level.

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