Guns, ports and a White House off its game

Published 10:32 pm Monday, February 27, 2006

By By Tray Smith
Over the past two weeks, the President has toured the country in order to highlight his health care and energy policy initiatives. These activities are part of the administration's plans to bolster President Bush's anemic approval ratings. Yet, each week, a different story has emerged to grab the media's attention and further weaken the White House's public image.
As President Bush sought to focus attention on health care policy last week, the nation became enthralled by the Vice President's hunting accident. The Vice President admirably took full responsibility for the accident, even though it was not entirely his fault. The victim recovered quickly with only minor injuries, and he apologized for the strife the incident caused the White House. Nevertheless, late night comedians and liberal media outlets continued to report on the story.
This week an event much more serious grabbed the attention of the nation. Sometime within the first of next month, a state-owned company in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is scheduled to take over operations at six major U.S. ports. This has caused concern among public officials in both parties who believe that allowing a Middle Eastern company to handle ports in the United States poses a significant security risk.
Congressmen and Senators have joined together in calling on the federal government to delay the transaction of operations to the UAE company, Dubai Ports Worldwide, in order to conduct a more in-depth investigation. Yet, the President has remained adamant in his support for allowing the company to take over the operations of the port, and he has threatened to veto any action that would prevent them from doing so.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been a steadfast ally in the war on terror. Though it is a small country, it has still provided the United States with intelligence on a number of vital targets. It is also allowing our military to work with its military in order to advance our mutual security objectives. The UAE also donated $100 million dollars in Katrina Relief Aid. While some will bring up allegations that the UAE has been the home of terrorist activities, the truth is that these activities are not supported by their government and they are only conducted secretly through terrorist back-channels. It is the equivalent of foreign countries barring us from owning ports in their countries because we may let the Crips operate it.
At a time when nations all across the Middle East are posing series threats to American security, we need all of the allies we can possibly get. Yet, politicians want to bar Dubai Ports Worldwide from taking over our ports simply because it is based in a Middle Eastern country. Not only would such action threaten one of the few exceptionally good relationships we have in that region, but it would send a message to all other Middle Eastern countries that no matter the type of relationship we maintain together, we will still prevent them from owning ports in our country.
Dubai Ports Worldwide has not bought the ports, it is simply going to oversee terminal operations. Those duties are currently performed by a British Company that Dubai Ports has bought out. The Coast Guard will continue to fulfill all security related duties, meaning that Dubai Ports would be incapable of smuggling terrorist into the country if it wanted to. In order to be approved for this process, the company had to be investigated for three months by a federal panel made up of officials from the Departments of Defense, State, Homeland Security and Justice. All of the safeguards are in place, and not allowing this deal to go through will be a much greater risk to our security than simply allowing Dubai Ports to go forward with their planned acquisition.
However, the Dubai Ports acquisition and the Vice President's hunting accident have each been made worse by the administration's handling of the events. While I agree with the administration's stand on the ports, the White House did not comment on the story until Wednesday, when he threatened to immediately veto any bill barring the ports deal to go forward. He never consulted law makers on the subject. He allowed for the headlines to remain away from his energy initiative and on his ports initiative. The administration made a huge mistake in their handling of the Vice President's hunting accident, when they failed to notify the press. While I agree that notifying the press should not be your number one concern after a friend is shot, a different standard is set for the Vice President. Any delay appears to be a cover up, and officials in the Vice President's office and the White House should no that. This White House is seriously off its game. President Bush would be better off he would bring in a new team of advisors in order to re-launch his second term and avoid the problems caused by his current team. The White House needs a make over. That is the bottom line.
Tray Smith is a freshman at Escambia Academy. He writes a political column for the Atmore Advance. He can be reached for contact at tsmith_90@

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