Leader Blues

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

FROM THE PUBLISHER >> Dubai buys off Bill, but not Hillary

GARRICK FELDMAN
Leader Publisher

Sen. Hillary Clinton and her husband, the former president, should get their heads together and decide where their family stands on handing over control of our ports to an Arab company.

She is against it, but heís for it, and they both have their reasons.

Mrs. Clinton thinks the port take-over is a terrible idea because sheís running for president in 2008.

But the former president has collected hundreds of thousands of dollars for his library and speaking fees from Dubai, which owns the company that could take over many of our ports unless Congress kills the idea, as it should.

Youíve read plenty about the Bush administrationís much-criticized plan to turn many of our nationís ports over to Dubai World Ports owned by the United Arab Emirates, but the former presidentís close ties to that desert kingdom have received less coverage than Sen. Clintonís criticism of that misbegotten deal.

Whatís going on? Do the Clintons know what the other is doing?

If you read Robert Novakís column in the Saturday Leader, Bill Clinton has deep ties to the UAE (and has even tried to get it to hire Joe Lockhart, his former press secretary, to lobby for the port sale), while Mrs. Clinton is making political hay out of the administrationís faux pas.

Donít the Clintons consult each other about the affairs of state, or are they pretty much going their separate way on issues that could affect the outcome of the next election and the presidential race in 2008?

Although Mrs. Clinton says she didnít know her husband was getting money from Dubai, her senatorial financial disclosure forms reveal that he received $450,000 for making speeches there in 2002.

The UAE also donated between $500,000 and $1 million for the presidential library in Little Rock.
Like many ďmoderateĒ Arab nations, the emirates have spent a lot of money in this country to buy influence with former presidents, including George Walker Bush and Jimmy Carter.

Carter has come out in favor of the Dubai Ports deal, which has made many Republi-cans even more upset over the deal, although George W. Bush has been more reticent about his sonís decision to OK the port sale.

You know the Bush administration is in trouble when fellow Repub-licans jump ship on the issue of port security: Most Republicans in Congress find it sickening that the administration saw nothing wrong with handing over operations at some of our major ports to a company based in the United Arab Emirates.

The deal could still fizzle out, but the damage has been done: The Republicans, previously seen as strong on national security, have allowed the Democrats to run with the issue, which has not only upset Republicans up for re-election this year, but has also alienated many of the nationís pundits that had been Bush supporters.

Many of the contributors to our editorial page, apart from John Brummett and Molly Ivins, are staunch Republicans, including David Sanders (like Brummett, another Arkansan, but quite different politically), as well as such nationally syndicated columnists as Robert Novak, Stephen Chap-man and Paul Craig Roberts (a distinguished economist and former Wall Street Journal editorial writer).

What these Repub-licans have in common is their profound disappointment in the Bush administration, from the ill-fated ports deal to the inadequate response to Hurricane Katrina, not to mention rising de-ficits and the quagmire in Iraq.

As Republican opinion makers lose their enthusiasm for this administration, itís no wonder President Bushís approval rating hovers around 35 percent.

That leaves an opening for the Clintons and the Democrats.
It looks like 1992 all over again, only a lot different.