Friday, March 17, 2006

Listing to Port

Jonathan Gurwitz is a columnist I enjoy and respect. His work appears in the San Antonio Express-News and is picked up in syndication by a handful of other papers, but not nearly enough. The online versions of his columns, furthermore, are a few days or weeks behind. So this new offering isn't online yet. But here's a highlight:

Something ugly is happening in America. And political leaders in both parties need to be very careful not to add to the repulsive development.

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds 46 percent of Americans have a negative view of Islam. That, on its own, might be disturbing but not necessarily surprising given the events of the past 4 1/2 years.

What is surprising is that the negative view Americans currently hold is seven points higher than in the months immediately following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Emphasis added. After exploring possible explanations, he hits on the fact that the poll was conducted at the height of the Dubai Ports World rhetoric.

Gurwitz notes something that probably won't be noted again till histories are written decades from now: For all the posters and cartoons that show George W. Bush slavering for Arab blood, it has been the president, more than any politician of any party in America today, who has been saying things like: "The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends; it is not our many Arab friends. Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists, and every government that supports them."

And he was still saying it this mointh, while Democratic leaders like Sen. Frank Lautenberg were saying things like: "We wouldn't transfer the title to the devil, and we're not going to transfer it to Dubai."

Gurwitz writes:

There were good reasons to object to the ports deal, and the Bush administration failed miserably to brief Congress and educate the American people about the issues involved. But that's not what killed the deal or the potential to craft an agreement with the Dubai-owned company that might actually have enhanced port security.

Republicans weren't about to allow Lautenberg and Democratic Sens. Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer to outflank them on the issue of national security, even if the issues they raised were mostly canards. The view from the Capitol suddenly showed an American electorate composed of Archie Bunkers. You could almost hear the campaign pledge, "I'm not gonna let no Ay-rabs own our ports."

Given the first significant opportunity to demonstrate that the entire Arab and Muslim worlds aren't the enemies of the United States, that, in fact, we have friends and valuable allies in both, Congress well delivered the opposite message. And some of the worst pandering to fear was done by liberals who have made a political livelihood out of bashing Bush for allegedly doing precisely the same thing.