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Bush and Dubai Ports: A Snow Job

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Message John McDonald
These guys should at least get their stories straight.

Seeking to defend the sale of U.S. port operations to a company based in the United Arab Emirates President Bush this week said, "Our government has looked at this issue, and looked at it carefully." His statements were backed up by assurances from White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan who told reporters "The president made sure to check with all the Cabinet secretaries that are part of this process, or whose agencies or departments are part of this process."

But not so fast. On the same day, the Treasury Department issued a statement saying that Treasury Secretary John Snow, the chair of the committee responsible for the review and approval of the sale of the port operations "had learned of the approval of the Dubai Ports deal after the fact," and that Assistant Treasury Secretary for International Affairs Clay Lowery was the most senior Treasury official involved.

The statement was apparently intended to put some distance between Snow and stories raising questions about what would appear to be a huge conflict of interest on his part.

It seems that before joining the Bush Cabinet as Secretary of the Treasury, Snow was the Chief Executive Officer of the CSX Corporation. When he left CSX he received a $33 million dollar buy out and another lump sum payment of $8 million dollars. Shortly after Snow's departure, CSX sold its port operations to Dubai Ports International for $1.23 billion. There was only one hitch to the deal. The sale was subject to review and approval of the little known Committee on Foreign Investment. But not to worry, the Committee just happened to be chaired by the newly minted, not to mention newly rich Treasury Secretary John Snow.

So who's telling the truth here? Is the President right, was the deal investigated at the highest levels of government? Did the chair of the Committee charged by law with approving the transaction fulfill his responsibilities to ensure the security of the American people by conducting a thorough review of the sale of one of America's most important assets? Or, as he says, did the Treasury Secretary only learn of the deal after it was completed?

I don't know the answer, but either way, it's not a pretty picture. One thing is for certain though. If John Snow isn't smart enough to officially and publicly recuse himself from a decision-making process impacting a company that recently paid him $40 million, he's not smart enough to be making decisions about the security of the United States.

Meanwhile, the president says that "we don't need to worry about security" and appears to be surprised about the controversy over the sale. But the reality is that the furor over the sale is being driven by increasing doubts about the competence of the Bush administration, and growing concerns that a corrupt Republican regime has placed the interests of the wealthy and powerful ahead of the safety and security of the American people.
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John McDonald is a writer and consultant in Los Angeles.
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