President Bush, after watching his already low approval rating take a dive because of his mishandling of the issue, wants memories of the controversy about whether Dubai Ports World should run six east coast ports to fade away fast.
Republicans in Congress, well aware that severe damage has been done to the public impression that their party is serious about national security, want the controversy to go away.
Democrats in Congress, punch drunk from the experience of actually prevailing in a standoff with the White House, appear to be quite willing to pop the champagne corks and declare victory.
And a Washington press corps that loves neat little stories with beginnings and ends – even if the “end” in this case takes the form of a clear-as-mud announcement by the UAE firm that it would shift control of the ports of New York and other major cities to a “U.S. entity” — is more than willing to bend once more to the will of official Washington.
But the one member of Congress who just can’t quite go with the flow – perhaps because his past breaks with conventional wisdom have so frequently put him on the right side of history – is not letting go.
U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, the Cleveland Democrat who knows a thing or two about ports from his days as mayor of a big city on Lake Erie in the days when Great Lakes ports were still going strong, is not willing to pretend that all the issues raised by the administration’s attempt to sneak through approval of a move that would have shifted operational control of the six ports Dubai Ports World have been settled.
“The port deal is not dead,” says Kucinich. “Much as they would like to, Congress must not allow this Administration to sweep this under the rug. Congress must fulfill its Constitutional duty and provide aggressive oversight of this ill-advised and misguided deal. Congress must continue to investigate this deal to ensure similar deals, which put the security of our nation at grave risk, can not happen again.”
Kucinich, the ranking Democratic member of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations, has invoked the House’s little used “Resolution of Inquiry” procedure in an attempt to force the Bush administration to turn over documents relating to whatever security review was conducted with regard to the port deal.
Specifically, Kucinich is demanding that the White House and the Department of Homeland Security turn over to Congress:
1. All documents in their possession regarding the December 13, 2005, Coast Guard Intelligence Coordination Center document – materials which could show that the Bush administration had been informed of security concerns regarding the UAE firm.
2. All documents in their possession regarding discussions between the White House and Dubai Ports World relating to the Committee on Foreign Investment process for approving the acquisition – materials which could show that the administration worked with the UAE firm to help advance the deal.
3. All documents in their possession regarding discussions between the White House and the Carlyle Group between October 1, 2005, and March 2, 2006 – materials which could shed light on whether the president’s enthusiasm for the port deal might have been stoked by contacts with international business interests with which his father remains closely associated.
How far will Kucinich get with his demand for documents from a White House that is never forthcoming when it comes to cooperating with Congress? That depends, in large part, on his fellow House Democrats, and on those scared House Republicans who were so busy claiming to the cameras that they wanted to “get to the bottom” of all the issues raised by the port deal.
Under House rules, when a member introduces a Resolution of Inquiry, it must be taken up by an appropriate committee – in this case the House Financial Services Committee — within 14 legislative days. If the committee, which of course has a Republican majority, votes to votes to squelch the resolution, then the White House is off the hook. That’s likely to happen unless House Democrats pick up Kucinich’s call and make enough noise to keep this issue alive.
If Congress ran as it should, this would not be a partisan issue. In the past, members of the president’s part often demanded accountability from the Executive Branch. But, in this almost fully dysfunctional Congress, only a united Democratic demand will give Kucinich’s important initiative a chance. Unfortunately, House Democrats have tended to put the “d” in dysfunctional for some time now. So Kucinich could, again, be left in the unenviable position of having to wait for history to again prove him right.