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AP Tells Dems To Keep Fighting Port Deal

Say what you will about the Associated Press, they are always doing their best to buck up their masters in the DNC:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., questions government witnesses during a Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill Thursday, Feb. 23, 2006, on a plan allowing a United Arab Emirates company to take over significant operations at six U.S. seaports.

Ports Debate Gives Democrats Opportunity

By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent Fri Feb 24, 9:31 PM ET

WASHINGTON – Eight months before midterm elections, Democrats sense political opportunity in a Republican revolt over the Bush administration’s handling of port security in an age of terrorism.

Rather than risk attacking the president alone in an area of his unquestioned political strength, they can stand with GOP critics. And hope to benefit while the commander in chief is forced to defend his credentials in the war on terror.

The challenge for Democrats, says former White House press secretary Michael McCurry, is to "thread it into a larger tapestry" that challenges the administration’s policies.

"Port security is national security, and national security is port security," Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday at the first of what may be many hearings in the GOP-controlled Congress into the issue.

The New York Democrat is a potential presidential contender in 2008, but in this case her criticism was no match for the brisk, one-sentence letter that North Carolina Republican Rep. Sue Myrick dispatched to the White House. "In regards to selling American ports to the United Arab Emirates, not just no, but hell no," she wrote to a president from her own party.

In fact, the transaction doesn’t involve selling ports. It involves a state-owned company in the United Arab Emirates taking over a British firm that holds contracts at ports in six U.S. cities. In response to the furor, the company has offered to delay its plans.

Whatever the details of the deal, there is little stomach for it among congressional Republicans, many of whom are clamoring for legislation to prevent the takeover and talking of overriding a veto if it comes to that.

The controversy came at a time when Democrats had been straddling other issues related to national security, looking for ways to criticize the president on the Patriot Act and warrantless wiretapping without leaving themselves vulnerable to seemingly inevitable attacks that they were soft on terror.

"What Democrats need to do is make clear that we favor a strong, aggressive posture toward going after terrorists, going after terrorist networks, breaking up terrorists before they strike, hunting them down and killing them," said Mark Mellman, a pollster who recently gave a private briefing to several Democratic senators.

"It is critical that we make it clear that Democrats yield to nobody in protecting the American people. Until we establish that fact, it’s hard to have a conversation (with voters) on any other subject," added McCurry, who was White House press secretary under President Clinton.

Thus, a Democratic-led filibuster against the anti-terror Patriot Act in the Senate melted away this month after four Republicans who had also opposed the bill reached a separate peace with the White House.

An initial Democratic staff memo said Patriot Act changes had made the legislation worse in one instance. But Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Democrat, attended the news conference where Republicans announced their agreement. The party’s leader, Sen. Harry Reid (news, bio, voting record) of Nevada, swung behind it, and it quickly became clear that Democrats would not press a filibuster.

An outcry against Bush’s program of warrantless wiretapping of certain terrorism suspects softened, too. Rather than stress opposition to the eavesdropping itself, several Democrats chose to emphasize that no president was above the law, and added they were eager to work with the administration if changes were needed in a 1970s-era wiretap statute.

"It’s clear that Democrats can’t afford to have Americans believe that they would sacrifice our security for the principle of civil liberties," said pollster Geoff Garin. "Democrats, I think, need to be more assertive in a pro-security message."

One recent poll suggested that stronger criticism of Bush would appeal to partisan Democrats. Not so the voters more likely to make a difference in competitive House and Senate races. The ABC survey taken in January found that 65 percent of those polled said investigating terrorism was more important than protecting privacy. Among Republicans, the figure was 84 percent. Among Democrats, it was 51 percent. Among independents, 61 percent.

Democrats seek to calibrate their rhetoric in anticipation of Republican attacks. They paid close notice when Karl Rove, the top White House political strategist, promised recently to make the war on terrorism a central campaign issue in November. It’s a play the Republicans have called, successfully, in both national elections since Sept. 11, 2001.

"Republicans have a post-9/11 view of the world, and Democrats have a pre-9/11 view of the world," Rove told Republican activists. "That doesn’t make them unpatriotic, not at all. But it does make them wrong — deeply and profoundly and consistently wrong."

Bush himself made similar comments to House Republicans. He urged them to stress the war on terror as well as the economy. And he defended his administration’s program of wiretapping, vowing to stay the course in a global campaign to wipe out terrorism. "Don’t lose your nerve. I’m not going to lose mine," one member of his audience quoted him as saying.

Too bad Hillary and company didn’t bother to learn enough about the subject before making jackasses out themselves.

But the AP says, keep trying.

This article was posted by Steve on Sunday, February 26th, 2006. Comments are currently closed.

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