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Making Waves

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By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 22, 2006; 10:37 AM

I've been trying to dope out how the UAE port security deal became the white-hot political story of the moment.

Here's what I've discovered.

On Feb. 12, the AP moved a story that began: "A company in the United Arab Emirates is poised to take over significant operations at six American ports as part of a corporate sale, leaving a country with ties to the Sept. 11, 2001 hijackers with influence over a maritime industry considered vulnerable to terrorism."

Know what else happened on Feb. 12? A certain ranch owner called the Corpus Christi Caller-Times to say that a certain senior administration official had accidentally shot his hunting buddy. And for the next week, the media cared about little else, culminating in this week's Time and Newsweek cover stories.

But the story was percolating along. Last Wednesday, Feb. 15, a Washington Times editorial asked: "Do we really want our major ports in the hands of an Arab country where al Qaeda recruits, travels and wires money?"

On Thursday, a New York Times editorial said the administration had taken "laxness to a new level" by allowing Dubai Ports World to run significant operations at six ports, including the one in New York. The next day, The Washington Post, which had run the AP wire five days earlier, in effect tried again with a staff-written story:

"The management of major U.S. ports taken over by an Arab-owned company? What was the Bush administration thinking when it allowed such a thing?"

The Times tried again too that day, with this story: "The Bush administration dismissed the security concerns of local officials yesterday and restated its approval of a deal that will give a company based in Dubai a major role in operating ports in and around New York City."

Then some Democrats, notably Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer, ripped the administration, and since the Cheney story was fading, a new controversy was born.

Now at this point, the conservative bloggers usually weigh in and tell the left-wing moonbats to stop playing politics with national security and leave the White House alone. But that didn't happen, and soon Republicans George Pataki and Bill Frist were jumping on the anti-Dubai bandwagon.

Michelle Malkin was out there early, saying: "The buck stops with the White House. The president has the ultimate authority to stop the deal. And he should . . . My bottom line is that the deal looks bad and smells worse."

Tom Bevan at conservative Real Clear Politics is also appalled:


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