The Weaseling of Weasels

Sunday, February 26, 2006 at 05:33 AM

Remember all the Republican outrage over the sale of six American ports to a UAE-owned company?

"Dear Mr President: In regards to selling American ports to the United Arab Emirates, not just NO but HELL NO!" Rep. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.) wrote to Bush in a one-sentence letter.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) rejected Bush's call to allow the sale to go through early next month and they remain committed to delaying it, their spokesmen said yesterday.

What a difference a couple days makes.

Now, Time Magazine is reporting that GOP lawmakers are looking for a way to give the President what he wants without making it look like they caved in to pressure from the White House.

Moving toward a deal that could allow President Bush and congressional GOP leaders to save face and avert a prolonged confrontation, GOP officials said today that they were discussing the idea of having Dubai Ports World seek a new review of its acquisition of a British company's operation that runs several key U.S. ports. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King, confirmed in a phone interview early Saturday afternoon to TIME that officials were close to a deal involving the Congressional leadership, the White House and the Dubai company. The agreement would call for a 45-day "CFIUS-plus investigation," King said, referring to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a Treasury Department-run interagency panel that probes proposed acquisitions in the U.S.

Peter King... Peter King... why does that name sound so familiar?

The debate over an Arab company's takeover of operations at six major American ports heightened yesterday with Rep. Peter King declaring that U.S. terms for approving the deal are insufficient to guard against terrorists and with Sen. Charles Schumer and family members of Sept. 11 victims urging President George W. Bush to intervene to block the port security contract.

Is this the same Peter King who said this on the Tucker Carlson show?

I`ve heard from a number of people, for instance, in that port in Dubai itself, there`s been corruption there. There`s been parts sent to Iran. There`s been a large al Qaeda presence in the United Arab Emirates, even though they are working with us in the war against terrorism.

Well, apparently Congressman Kings has "changed his mind."

Here's Time's description of what happens if this compromise goes through.

Under Frist's plan, the company would voluntarily separate U.S. ports from the rest of the deal for 45 days, allowing them to continue to operate as they do while the deal is re-vetted. That would allow a new review through the administration's Committee on Foreign Investments in the U.S. (CFIUS). Administration officials remain adamant that their first review was thorough and proper, so the face-saving element was crucial, according to one Capitol Hill negotiator. Frist is proposing that this time, CFIUS do the extra 45-day review that the law calls for in transactions where there are national security concerns. That provision was not triggered last time because administration officials had no remaining concerns at the end of the first review. This approach would eliminate the need for new legislation now, the Republican sources said.

Basically -- they wait 45 days. Then the UAE -- with all its ties to terrorism still intact -- gets the ports. Bush gets his way. Congress saves face while pretending to exercise oversight over the administration. And everyone hope our attention span is so short that we won't remember who said what and when they said it.

Bottom line -- despite all the chest thumping and garment rending, all six of those US ports will be owned and operated by the United Arab Emirates.