Election year Politics and Ports

Wednesday, March 08, 2006
It is an election year and politicians of every stripe are posturing and preening and pounding their chests.

Now House Republicans are doing their best to stab Bush and Dubai in the back. WaPo has an article concerning the effort on the part of House Republicans to kill the deal before the 45 day review is done.

Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) will attach legislation to block the deal today to a must-pass emergency spending bill funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A House vote on the measure next week will set up a direct confrontation with President Bush, who sternly vowed to veto any bill delaying or stopping Dubai Ports World's purchase of London-based Peninsular & Oriental Steamship Co.

"Listen, this is a very big political problem," said House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), explaining that he had to give his rank-and-file members a chance to vote. "There are two things that go on in this town. We do public policy, and we do politics. And you know, most bills at the end of the day, the politics and the policy kind of come together, but not always. And we are into one of these situations where this has become a very hot political potato."

Ron Bonjean, spokesman for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), said GOP leadership is "endorsing the viewpoint of our members and Chairman Lewis that we do not believe the U.S. should allow a government-owned company to operate American ports."

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said last night that the administration is "committed to keeping open and sincere lines of communication with Congress." She added, though, that "the president's position is unchanged."

Since the Dubai port issue exploded last month, the Bush administration, GOP leaders and DP World officials have tried to defuse the situation and to buy time to let the issue fade.

In a deal brokered by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), DP World resubmitted its acquisition this week to the administration for a 45-day national security investigation. Frist has said he will hold off any legislation in the Senate until that inquiry is completed, a vow meant to give the administration and the company a chance to present their case.

That agreement appears to have quieted calls in the Senate for immediate action against the deal. Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), an early critic of the deal, said briefings by port security experts and company officials have eased his concerns. But House Republican aides and Senate Democrats said the Senate will almost certainly have to follow once the House acts.

"This issue is going to go away like the sun's not going to come up in the morning," said Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.).

"There's a lot of politics going on around here," Martinez said.

The House is still boiling. Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), with bipartisan support, introduced legislation yesterday that would scuttle the deal; mandate that the owners of "critical infrastructure" in the United States, including ports, highways and power plants, be American; and demand that cargo entering U.S. ports be screened within six months of passage.

We have planes piloted by Arab pilots flying commercial jets into this country every day. The Saudi Arabians have a shipping company that does business in 9 American ports. The Chinese do business here as well. And then of course there are the Danes, who are major investors in shipping here. Do will tell them they are not to be trusted? The horse, as they say, is out of barn. Too late to shut the door now, and once this begins, where does it end?

And Duncan Hunter, sounding more like Chucky Schumer every day, says that UAE is unreliable and we can not have foreigners involved in our infrastructure. Where exactly does the Congressman expect to find all these American shipping companies? Is he going to wave his magic xenophobic wand and valoi there will appear true blue real live Americans lined up ready and waiting to get the job done and make the investment? Second runner up in this deal was a state owned company from Singapore.

Over the years the US has sold a God awful amount of military hardware to the UAE. It seems Duncan Hunter and his buddies were not all that concerned about the UAE's reliability when the UAE were forking over hundreds of millions of dollars for equipment that kills people. The House was not bothered by ties to terrorism when the US and UAE took part in joint military exercises. We have airfields there. We have a huge Naval base there, and now all of a sudden...seen one Arab, seen em all, they can not be trusted.

If we have to fight Iran we would be up s*** creek without a paddle without the UAE and if these nimrods keep shooting their mouths off we just might find ourselves losing an ally. And for what?

UPDATE: House Approbriations just voted to block the Dubai deal 62-2. Remember that the next time someone asks why it is we don't see more moderate Muslims.

UPDATE:"Because of the strong relationship between the United Arab Emirates and the United States and to preserve that relationship ... DP World will transfer fully the U.S. operations of P&O Operations North America to a United States entity," Edward H. Bilkey, DP World's chief operating officer, said in a statement.

The announcement did not specify which American company would be involved.

The UAE firm's purchase of P&O, the British company that manages cargo and passenger terminals at ports on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, has stirred up bipartisan opposition.

Personally I think it would serve them right if Halliburton took over the contract. Is this a good compromise? I don't know, but I am getting tired of the issue myself.


Skookumchuk said...

What do you want to buy - a Toyota, a BMW, or a Chevy? What do your neighbors want to buy?

Given that the shipping industry in places like Singapore is so much more innovative and productive than our own, the question is not do we let foreigners in but rather how do we let them in.

And how is the only question because the Wal-Marts and Toyotas and Samsungs and all the rest prefer world-class operations like these running our container terminal operations to having Ma and Pa Stevedoring Services of Perth Amboy NJ running them. In the end, what will probably happen if the political pressure continues is that these global firms will be forced to set up shell companies with American-sounding names just to quell the xenophobia, while still retaining their normal structures and capabilities under the skin.

Knucklehead said...

Linda Chavez (ht: Jim Miller) says the "mobbed-up" ILA is the current "port problem" we should be worrying about.

terrye said...


I have wondered about that myself.

Of course that might be the idea, we give grants to some nice American companies with close ties to the Gambinos and tell them they do not need to pay taxes for a few decades.

Seneca the Younger said...

There are 64 members of the House Appropriations Committee?

Knucklehead said...

What has the House Appropriations Committee got to do with it? What federal taxpayer money needs to be appropriated for DPW to buy O&P?

I'm confused.

Knucklehead said...

OK, now I read it. These idiots are ready to block funding for Iraq and Afghanistan for the sake of this? What a bunch of maroons!

terrye said...

yeah. they put it on a must pass piece of legislation.

I hope Charles Johnson and Michelle Malkin are proud of themselves.

No doubt it makes folks like Osama and Zarqawi happy too.

Skookumchuk said...


These idiots are ready to block funding for Iraq and Afghanistan for the sake of this? What a bunch of maroons!

The Chinese, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, the Danes in the form of A.P. Moller (who by the way own some of our civilian-crewed Navy support ships), the Singaporeans and the rest are here to stay.

I can't believe that the big users of the system, the Wal-Marts et al., would in the end allow control to slip away from these firms to small US operators. They spent 20 years wresting control away from them to allow the current global logistics system to develop as it has. Ain't gonna happen.

I can see a future where US "control" may be there in some cosmetic sense, but the guts will remain the same.

Syl said...

It's not only the Democrats that want to keep us stupid--it's the Republicans too.

They're so afraid the Democrats might be perceived as stronger on national security because of this issue that they won't even argue the facts in this deal. Reps not only are allowing the stupid memes to persist, they're pushing them.

I expect the Dems to be stupid and to demagogue. I expect the Reps to stand on principle and argue the merits.

The whole lot need to be voted out. All of them.

Fresh Air said...

Well, the politics were easy to explain. The GOP has a 20-point lead on national security over the Democrats. The leaders found themselves outflanked on the right and risking the loss of this advantage, while believing the American people are too effing stupid to understand the realities of the transaction.

Add to that demagoguery by the likes of Hillary, and you have essentially a recipe for panic. This may blow over or it may come back to haunt the Republicans. But take note: It was a complete free shot for the Democrats; they put nothing at risk voting for the deal, since they'll never be called on it.

That, in a nutshell, is why the Republicans had to beat their chests so foolishly.

Skookumchuk said...

And if the future terminal operating restrictions do prove too onerous, I can see a dandy competitive opening for aggressive ports like Vancouver, BC and even the Mexicans in places like Ensenada (which is being quietly promoted by the Chinese Huchison Wampoa group). They would court the "foreign" shipping lines that we have barred.

Thereby cleaning the American clock.

Truepeers, get ready for the Vancouver NIMBYs to raise Cain, since the CN and CP will be running container trains 24/7.

terrye said...


Why shouldn't they? We do have roads. Once some of this stuff gets over here, it might be easier to drive or fly it in.

But not all.

Besides I do not know if there are enough Mom and Pops to take over.

It is like farming. If people decided tomorrow that they wanted the family farm back, they would be shocked to find that a lot of those guys just are not there anymore.

The thing that really pisses me off, is seeing them cut Bush off like this when are looking at a possible showdown with Iran.

flenser said...

By 62-2, the Appropriations Committee voted to bar DP World, run by the government of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, from holding leases or contracts at U.S. ports.

Clearly this is political posturing. But it also seems to me that it's very unlikely that the Appropriations Committee has any authority to do any such thing. American foreign policy is not set by 62 members of the House of Representatives. I'd love to see them try to justify their position before the Roberts Court.

I think its an open question whether even the full Congress has the power to do this. Could they invoke interstate commerce here?

Rick Ballard said...

I think a poll must have shown the public's confidence in Congress to be rising. Every time that happens, Congress makes sure that the people fully understand that such a feeling truly is completely unwarranted.

flenser said...

Here is the list of the Appropriations Committee members. See if any are your Congressman and give 'em a call.

Specter said...

I think that the members of the Committee who voted for this should pony up the cash it's going to take to pay off the breach of contract law suit.....

Skookumchuk said...


It depends on the leases, but ultimately it would probably be the taxpayers . . .

Rick Ballard said...

C'mon, we're in the tween time silly season. As FA noted, this is a no cost, meaningless vote. Every Congresscritter on the committee can point to it and say "See, I voted agin them furriners!"

Fortunately, Congress has absolutely no say in the serious business coming up at the UNSC. I'd sure like a peek at Ambassador Bolton's opening remarks and proposed sanctions. That one is the only story of real interest at the moment - I'm curious as to how the Iranians are going to back down.

terrye said...


I disagree. The Congress just made Bush look powerless. My guess is the Iranians are hoping for a split between us and the UAE.

This vote will make them bolder.

Rick Ballard said...


Not with Bubba and Albright doing the old wink, nudge and nod. The UAE has said nothing negative (to my knowledge) about this. Bill and Madeleine are undoubtedly giving them excellent advice concerning the level of principle involved with the pols votes.

I wish it were not so but I rarely have wishes granted. This is just the sausage being made in public.

flenser said...

terrye, my guess is that the UAE leadership is a little more mature and practical than our own.

Which is not setting the bar terribly high, I admit. Now you see why some of us long for a return to a monarchy.

terrye said...


Yes, off with their heads sounds good right now.

They are concerned about the polls, but those things are just snapshots and one never really knows where people will be in 6 months anyway.

Sometimes I wonder how much of this about turf.

Rick Ballard said...

I'm with you on polling, Terrye. Very, very bad polling of the "Do you think furriners should control our ports?" variety. Ask people "Do you think furriners should pay Muricans to unload freight" and see what the answer is.

David Thomson said...

“This is just the sausage being made in public.”

Yup, and at the end of the process---the agreement with Dubai World Ports will be approved. This politics stuff can get kinda messy. It is not unusual to get tiny bits of rat meat in the sausage which you serve at your dinner table.

truepeers said...

Truepeers, get ready for the Vancouver NIMBYs to raise Cain, since the CN and CP will be running container trains 24/7.

-oh we're already hearing from them concerning the present port expansion plans. Too many trucks on the road! (and given local geography - we're basically a densely populated flood plain shut in by mountains, ocean, and the border - with lots of bridges and other bottleknecks, we do have problems...)

As a sometimes cyclist, i was a little miffed when they closed the one long stretch of flat road into the city from the east to cyclists and non-accredited traffic after 9-11, because it was the road along the port and security was increased (and everyone knows that cyclists are a bunch of leftish loons...) Anyway, no doubt a troublemaker could find many security issues here as elsewhere still to be addressed... I await expansion of the silly season.

Knucklehead said...

Well, no doubt the Presse Ancienne and all the senators and congresspeople of NY and NJ are making a big deal of this little gem re: PATH-NY/NJ and will be right in the faces of the governors of NY and NJ, the board of governors of PATH who are appointed by the governors, the Executive Director of Path, and so and so on. After all, it ain't all about Bashing Bush - it's about the national securtiy of our ports, right?

Specter said...

Breaking News: Dubai Ports World has announced that they will step away from the ports deal. I saw it here.

Rick Ballard said...

Haliburton should be able to handle it.

Skookumchuk said...

As I mentioned before, you could put together a US-led group consisting of some "US" firm in concert with the major global ocean carriers. It is, no pun intended, pretty deep water; there could be antitrust implications. But in one form or another, international participation by the shipping lines is here to stay. They have been expanding in port and landside transport activities now for some 20 years in large part because their "just in time" customers have demanded the efficiencies that often accompany vertical integration. And that isn't going away.

Knucklehead said...

Well, P&O has relationships with Delaware River Stevedores and "Cooper T. Smith Stevedoring" (CP&O - Port Deal Has Local Ties.

Neither seems large enough to take on all the D&O port operations. DRS is purely Delaware Bay as far as I can tell. Cooper is Norfolk area.

Maher is the largest handler in Port Newark. Not certain but I think they are a US firm but, again, local.

Knucklehead said...


Sounds about right. Somebody probably tossed something together as a holding company and they'll buy out the US portion of the DPW deal. Anyone wanna bet a bunch of former Clinton cronies make a couple large bucks on this?

terrye said...

If you look at the link you can see there was an effort out there to do something like that, but they were not sure how to handle reimbursement.

I wonder if Dubai found a way because Congress had a fit, or if Congress had a fit because they knew something like this was coming and wanted to try and take credit for it.

Knucklehead said...


What?!?! You don't think the opposition to the DPW deal was "principled"? Comeon - they'll be talking to all the other furriners who run freight terminals and making them give their US assests up to US firms, like, right pronto ubetcha!

terrye said...



Well it seems that Dubai was not just trying to find a way to get in our ports so that they could kill us all after after all. In fact I read elsewhere that the US ports were not the real draw, Europe was. In all more than a dozen countries have contracts with P&O...and those I take it will stand.

But we are special. I think it would be a hoot if Halliburton got the deal.

Knucklehead said...

BTW, when I first started looking at this thing the P&O Ports North America site showed five US ports in which they had terminal operations. Now it shows twenty-one. The only place I've seen this mentioned was in some hyperventilated bit from Newsmax.

It is also interesting that Canada has fallen off the map. IIRC the "sixth" port was Vancouver.

Has anyone else seen any major media outlet change their coverage of this from "five or six ports" to the twenty-one count?

Knucklehead said...


It seems that US ports are notoriously inefficient. DPW wants to make money.

I'm sure we'll see all these politicians and pundits who are so concerned with "port security" now turn their attentions to the various port authorities that are often clueless.

The particular port authority shall remain nameless but I was recently talking to a tradesman who has to deal with it and he was not kind. In fact he mentioned that they frequently "force" legitimate, authorized crafts people to break into facilities because they are so unresponsive and unreliable. Some outfit operating a terminal (airport, marine, whatever) will contract for some work they require, hire people fully approved and completely above board to do the work, and then run up against port authority incompetence. They reach the point of losing money due to it and eventually the bold cutters come out and access to facilities is gained.

terrye said...


I saw some reference on instapundit to trouble with port authority, It seems Homeland Security found out they hired drivers with criminal backgrounds. Needless to say Reynolds was trying to make that the fault of the people who found the problem, rather than the ones who created it.

Yes, let Congress move on and start bugging someone other than Dubai Ports. See how they like it.

But I would like to know if they are going to demand that China and Saudi Arabia give up their interests as well.

Knucklehead said...


Yeah. See my "little gem" link in this thread.

I had the same reaction you did. Perhaps it took DHS longer than it should have taken to discover the issue but DHS didn't issue the badges and wasn't responsible for the years upon years this sort of incompetence had been going on. Would it ever have been "discovered" without DHS? And what is the PATH of NY/NJ doing about it if they are so darned concerned about the security of the port facilities they have under their jurisdiction? And where is the oh-so-concerned MSM holding their feet to the fire about it?

terrye said...


I doubt the press will make an issue of it at all.

There are cases like this all the time all over the country. There is no way to avoid it.