Most Americans had no idea that our government's process of approving foreign takeovers of American companies through the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States was entirely secret. When Rep. John Sweeney (R-N.Y.) asked Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff about the Dubai Ports deal at a hearing on Feb. 15, Chertoff declined to answer because the committee's work was "classified." Treasury Secretary John Snow told another congressional committee that he was not permitted to discuss specific transactions considered by the foreign investment panel.While secrecy has always been an issue with this administration the Dubai Ports deal brought to the forefront another problem, a "tough guy" president who quick to shoot from the hip but doesn't know what he's shooting at.
Why shouldn't the public have a right to know about the deliberations of this interagency committee? Hasn't the secrecy surrounding this decision aggravated the uproar it has caused?
President Bush was his tough, swaggering self on Tuesday when he threatened to veto any bill that would scuttle the port company takeover. "They ought to look at the facts and understand the consequences of what they're going to do," Bush said.Dionne asks "Does this happen often?" I fear the answer is yes.
But 24 hours later, as opposition to the deal built, White House spokesman Scott McClellan -- boy, I don't envy him his job these days -- said a president whose main calling card is his devotion to keeping our nation secure hadn't paid any attention to this issue until the past "several days." In other words, a subject Bush displayed such passion about the day before was also a subject he had just learned about. Does this happen often?
And finally he points out a real plus side, the kool-aid just doesn't taste as good as it used to.
Yesterday, Bush insisted that the deal would leave our ports safe. "People don't need to worry about security," he said. But many people in both parties are worried because they no longer take the administration's claims at face value. That, too, is progress.It is progress but I'm afraid it may be a little too late.