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February 21, 2006

SO NOW BUSH IS THREATENING TO VETO any legislation that would block the Dubai ports deal? Either this deal is somehow a lot more important than it seems (a quid pro quo for, well, something . . . ) or Bush is an idiot. Your call.

UPDATE: Here's an argument that there's less to the port deal than meets the eye. Of course, that makes me wonder why the White House thinks it's so important.

Don Surber, meanwhile, emails to castigate me for suggesting that Bush is a crook. But that's not what I meant by the quid pro quo remark. I was wondering if there wasn't some diplomatic importance to this deal. That seems somewhat more plausible now. There must be something important here to get Bush to threaten a veto -- had he done more vetoing, of course, that wouldn't be quite so obvious.

On the other hand, maybe the whole thing is just a clever ruse to get Chuck Schumer to endorse racial profiling.

Meanwhile, Jonah Goldberg observes: "I agree entirely with the now-obvious consensus that the UAE deal is bad politics. I'm even somewhat convinced that it's bad policy. But I can't help but get the whiff of hysteria in all of this."

ANOTHER UPDATE: Robert Ferrigno, author of Prayers for the Assassin, emails:

Bush is going to take some ugly political flak for a better cause. The USA needs to strengthen ties with Arab nations. Period. The UAE is not Switzerland, but it's not Afghanistan either, and yes they recognized the Taliban government. They're politicians too. If we can do business with Pakistan, and we must, the UAE is as good an Islamic business partner as we're going to get.

To take away the deal from the UAE now, for no other reason than their religion, would rightly insult all Muslims, and do irreparable damage to our long term interests. This would not even be an issue if the ports were secure. That should be the focus of conservative attention, not who gets the deal to run the port.

Several other readers also think that this wouldn't be such an issue if it weren't for the cartoon riots.

John McCain is also backing Bush here. So is Will Collier, who pretty much takes the Ferrigno line. But the Bush Administration set itself up for this, in part, with its response to the Cartoon Wars, as reader C.J. Burch emails:

When you combine the Dubai thing with the administration's very lame reaction to the Danish cartoons...well, I'm one dissatisfied customer.

I think that's part of what's going on here. That limp response cost them credibility that they need now.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt:

Majority Leader Frist just told my audience that an override of a presidential veto of legislation blocking the port deal was possible. Looks like a showdown, and it isn't one the president can win.

What is the White House thinking? If this deal is that important, they should have been ahead of the story, not behind it.

A.J. Strata, meanwhile, thinks that Bush is right and bin Laden is laughing.

MORE: John Cross emails:

Professor, the UAE has been our ally since the 80’s. I was there during the Iran-Iraq War, and when we hit the Iranians during Operation Praying Mantis, the Iranians responded by going after the UAE oil platforms.

They are a moderate Arab country that we need to maintain economic engagement with. And they occupy a strategic point. Bush isn’t an idiot…we need to get past the knee-jerk reaction here.

Much more at his blog.

And finally, Tom Maguire says that the fuss over this deal from the right undermines the "authoritarian cult theory" espoused by some lefty bloggers.

Plus, extra points for Bush as "a uniter, not a divider."

STILL MORE: Former InstaPundit Afghanistan Correspondent John Tammes emails:

I managed some cooperative efforts with the UAE Special Forces troops stationed at Bagram. They did some patrols in the area I was responsible for, and more importantly, they did some humanitarian assistance missions. The Afghans absolutely loved the UAE troops. They were thrilled to have SOMEBODY from the Arab world (besides our excellent Egyptian hospital) come out and HELP, rather than hinder.

We had a lot of supplies come from UAE based concerns too - if they were good enough to serve along side us in the field, and good enough to supply bottled water, food and the like to our troops..well, that sure sounds like a friendly nation to me.

Good point. And reader Eric Bainter makes a similar one:

I don't know squat about the details of the port deal, but I did spend a rather hot humid summer in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, quietly camping out at a UAE air force base that hosts an USAF unit. Prior to 9-11, there was a tanker squadron there, but within a few weeks after 9-11 the US presence ramped up dramatically, eventually becoming an expeditionary wing, and in time to support the Afghanistan effort. It is unusual for large, dramatic changes to happen quickly in Arab-dom, so for us to multiply the base footprint that rapidly means the UAE must been very supportive of our efforts. At the time I was there we did not publicly associate the name of the base with our mission or the type of aircraft we had, as our hosts preferred to remain low-key about our presence, so I won't go into details of that. However, I will note that while I was there we dedicated the biggest aircraft ramp the USAF Red Horse units (special construction outfit, kind of like SeaBees) had constructed since the Vietnam war. Now it is also true that the city of Abu Dhabi hosts some kind of anti-Israel/Jew outfit, like the Center for the Study of Zionism or somesuch. I do not consider that to be a mark in the "plus" column. However, it is also true that I got a beer ration while stationed there, which was purchased in downtown Abu Dhabi, and on more than one occasion I noticed that my bottle of Corona (yes, the Mexican beer in the clear bottle) was printed entirely in HEBREW, except for the name "Corona" and a statement in English that said the beer was distributed by an Israeli company. So, as is so often said about the Arab world, one thing is said in public, something else is done in private.

I don't know if the port deal has a big behind-the-scene quid-pro-quo, but it would not surprise me a bit. Oh, and BTW, I recall that the UAE seemed to regard Iran as a primary threat, which might be a handy confluence of interests. (Of course, this did not stop them from advertising a lot of holiday packages to Iran.)

You'd think the White House would have been ready with stuff like this, wouldn't you?