MoonDawg's Den: Bush's First Veto?

MoonDawg's Den

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Bush's First Veto?

President Bush has never used his power to veto a bill in his 5+ years as president. He threatened to veto the McCain Amendment that outlawed the use of torture, but when it passed 90 votes to 9 in the Senate and overwhelmingly in the House, he was forced to issue a signing statement that basically said that the new law didn't apply to the executive branch.

Bush is now threatening another veto, this time of a measure to stop the sale of several major U.S. Ports to a United Arab Emirates Company--Dubai Ports World. This doesn't seem as ridiculous as vetoing a ban on torture. There are some reasonable arguments to be made for allowing the sale, mostly on the lines of a free market economy. However, there are some fundamental questions that should be raised: Why are we allowing foreign companies to own and operate our ports (a British company owned them previously)? How could this sale impact national security since our ports are already a weakness? Since 2 of the 9/11 hi-jackers came from the UAE, is this insistence by Bush a wise political move?

I'm interested to hear what the posters here at the Den think about this issue. I believe that congress should act to forbid the sale of our ports to any foreign entity. National security is simply not something we can outsource.

Cheers,
Jeff

GARRY'S RESPONSE: Well first off, Jeff, we wouldn't be "selling" our ports, we would be extending existing contracts that we have with a company based in the UK, Peninsular and Oriental, to manage some terminal operations at these ports. What's at issue is that a firm owned by the UAE, Dubai Ports World, has purchased P&O. According to USA Today, P&O only manages about 30% of the terminal operations at each of the six U.S. ports in question.

As to the national security question, I don't think it's that big of an issue that two of the 9/11 hijackers came from the UAE. As has been demonstrated just this week, jihadists are everywhere, including right here in the United States. And the UAE has been a decent ally in the war on terror (albeit a squishy one, in the mold of Saudi Arabia).

That having been said, I do think there needs to be further discussion on the national defense implications of the P&O takeover. As James Lileks noted today, the deal "just doesn’t sit well". What kind of review process did the Committee on Foreign Investment engage in before it signed off on the deal? Did considerations about diplomatic relations with the UAE (I think this is what has Bush already talking veto) take priority over security concerns about having a foreign government involved in such a sensitive area? What safeguards are in place to vet employees of the firm? I think these are reasonable questions to ask.

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