Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Bingo! Finally we're getting details on Tom DeLay's and Jack Abramoff's work for Russian nationals buying influence in DC. That and other news of the day in today's Daily Muck.

I think you can still put me down as officially agnostic on the security risk posed by allowing Dubai Ports World to assume the management of six major US ports of entry. But even if the fears are more nativist than real, it seems like the White House will still not leave critics hanging -- if nothing else, on old-fashioned and true-to-form insider and cronyism grounds.

Looking at the "secret agreement" the White House seems to have leaked this afternoon, here's one point that sort of stands out.

The administration did not require Dubai Ports to keep copies of business records on U.S. soil, where they would be subject to court orders. It also did not require the company to designate an American citizen to accommodate U.S. government requests. Outside legal experts said such obligations are routinely attached to U.S. approvals of foreign sales in other industries.

The failure to require the company to keep business records on US soil sounds like a pretty open invitation to flout US law as near as I can tell. Forget terrorism. This is the sort of innovative business arrangement I would think a number of Bush-affiliated American companies might want to get in on. Perhaps Halliburton could be domiciled in Houston, pay its taxes in Bermuda, do its business in Iraq and keep its business records in Jordan.

In the rest of the 'secret agreement' you can see other reasons why -- in addition to trade secret regs -- they chose to keep this pitiful deal a secret.

Read this ...

Under the deal, the government asked Dubai Ports to operate American seaports with existing U.S. managers "to the extent possible." It promised to take "all reasonable steps" to assist the Homeland Security Department, and it pledged to continue participating in security programs to stop smuggling and detect illegal shipments of nuclear materials.

That paragraph is a beaut for the White House. "All reasonable steps" seems like a rather tepid standard of compliance with the Department of Homeland Security, doesn't it? And didn't we figure they'd want to help out regardless? Also, didn't we figure they'd keep helping out trying to prevent loose nukes from coming into the country? Did we just want to be sure?

More pointedly for the White House, the 'secret agreement' seems to have included a series of pledges, albeit rather feeble ones, of cooperation with security and counter-terrorism measures.

See the problem here? They aren't just hoisted on their own petard here; the petard is engaging them in an unnatural act, presumably pre-detonation. The White House's whole premise seems to be that the DPW just isn't involved in the security side of port management. Since that's the case, the whole security argument is bogus.

But if they need to pledge to cooperate and assist with security and counter-terrorism then clearly they are involved in port security.

Earlier this evening I took this Matt Yglesias post and made it the featured post at TPMCafe.

It's about Larry Summers' resignation at Harvard and specifically the Washington Post's fatuous column decrying his departure.

I went to two of what the Post editorial calls "elite coastal campuses." And I spent the better part of my twenties at Brown, a very liberal college campus in what is probably the most Democratic state in the country. Nobody needs to tell me about campus liberalism with its foibles and insularities or its frothiness and escapism.

Believe me, I've seen it.

But there's just nothing more precious than seeing the faux-populist poseur Post editorial writers standing tough against an entrenched "establishment" of thirty-something, tenure-desperate semioticians and lit geeks in defense of "mainstream American values", a well of mores and beliefs with which the Post is no doubt deeply in touch. (Peel away the Fred Hiatt mask and underneath it's Bruce Springsteen; cut a little deeper and he's an Iowa farmer.) This is especially so when, as Matt, with a light touch, points out, they seem to know little about what actually happened beyond what you could crib from a studious reading of the 2005 edition of the Collected Transcripts of the O'Reilly Factor.

In their ability to be so completely out of touch with who they are, the Posties have finally accomplished what so many campus lefties struggled so long in vain to do: give real meaning to the phrase 'false consciousness'.

So now it seems that the UAE folks have signed on Bob Dole to help them ride out the port storm, or find a port in the port storm, or something like that. But until today, who was the lobbying arm of the UAE in the United States? Who worked the press on their behalf?

I rung up the Foreign Agents Registration Unit at the Justice Department. And as of the last required filing (covering the first half of last year), there were four firms lobbying on behalf of the UAE and state-controlled UAE entities.

Hunton & Williams for the Ministry of Finance and Industry of the UAE; Global USA, Inc. for the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of the United Arab Emirates; Clark & Weinstock for the plain old United Arab Emirates; and Patton Boggs for UAE.

The one of those deals which seemed most tied to working Congress, the executive branch and media circles in DC is the Clark & Weinstock contract. They bill themselves as specializing in "reputation and crisis management."

We pulled the agreement and it's set forth in a January 18th, 2005 letter which former Rep. and W&C's DC Managing Partner Vin Weber (R) wrote to the UAE ambassador. The above excerpt details the two main goals of their representation of the UAE as outlined in their contract.

We called Clark & Weinstock's New York office to see if they're still working the UAE PR and lobbying account. But they didn't return our call.

Watch out for that falling shoe: White House says Bush didn't know about Dubai ports deal until after it was approved. "He became aware of it over the last several days," says Scott McClellan.

TPM Reader BR from Houston ...


This is the moment when the mask comes off, the curtain is pulled, and everyone—but especially Bush supporters—gets to see the sad little wizard pulling the strings and relying on his megaphone.

Leave aside the question of whether having our ports controlled by UAE will actually make us less safe—I don’t like it, but I don’t have hard evidence. The larger political point is that Bush has lived and died by the war on terror. He has accused those he believed to be less zealous of, virtually, treason. Etc. etc.

Being a War President, and the War on Terror itself, eclipses everything.

Except when it doesn’t.

The people who voted for him genuinely believed that he would keep them safer than any alternative we could elect. And now he’s blowing it all off, under the guise of “fair play” for countries that have “played by the rules.” Aside from the cribbing from Clinton, just which rules is it he thinks the UAE has played by?

The cynicism of his defense of the port deal is just staggering. He’s not even interested in pretending he didn’t know, or hadn’t considered the psychological ramifications, etc. Not even a nod to “maybe we should review this one more time.”

Could be it’s money—there is clearly some conflict of interesting running around the Treasury Dept.

But maybe they just don’t care. It’s all been a show, from day one. Or, I should say, Day 911.

I hope this knocks some sense into Republican heads. From what I heard on Sean Hannity today, perhaps it has.

I'm still interested in finding out a bit more about just what this deal would leave the UAE company in charge of. But what stands out about the president's talk tough statement today is that it really does amount to -- "The fact we're doing this means that we've looked into it and it's fine. So what's your problem?"

Here's an actual quote: "They ought to listen to what I have to say about this. They ought to look at the facts and understand the consequences of what they're going to do. But if they pass a law, I'll deal with it, with a veto ... they need to know that our government has looked at this issue and looked at it carefully. Again, I repeat, if there was any question as to whether or not this country would be less safe as a result of the transaction, it wouldn't go forward."

In the most generous reading, it's like he's insulted when we don't take his word for it that he's got us covered.

Okay, so too many goofs for the Secretary of DHS. Like Reed says, he should go. But every so often when you're thinking of all of Michael Chertoff's goofs, you've got to remember who George W. Bush really wanted to get the job.