The contested $6.8 billion sale of shipping operations at six of the United States’ largest ports to a company based in the United Arab Emirates took another turn Wednesday sure to cause yet more commotion – though if President George W. Bush is to be believed, it doesn’t matter in the least.
According to the White House, Bush was not informed of the sale of the seaports until after it was authorized by his administration.
Prior to the announcement by the White House, the deal encountered opposition from Republicans and Democrats alike, who claimed the sale would endanger security at the ports. Bush responded to the criticism by threatening to veto any legislation endangering the sale.
Regardless of whether the sale jeopardizes security, the knowledge that the president was in the dark about such a large federal transaction further strengthens the criticism that the United States is operated like a corporation – and a badly run one, at that.
Comments from the White House didn’t do much to dissuade that criticism. During the press briefing at which the statement was made, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan added that in hindsight, “We probably should have briefed members of Congress about it sooner.”
Yes, Scott, that probably would have been a good idea.
McClellan then said that while Bush had no foreknowledge of the dealings, he did “go back to every Cabinet member whose department is involved in this process and asked them, ‘Are you comfortable with this transaction going forward?'”
There it is: A $6.8 billion sale boiled down to a “yes” or “no” from a handful of people who are supposed to be in the know.
Clearly there is no need to worry, though, because “each and every one expressed that they were comfortable with this transaction going forward,” McClellan said.
So a gaggle of Cabinet members told the president something he wanted to hear; surprise, surprise. And he’s so confident in their opinions that he’s willing to overrule the central lawmaking body of the United States.
Bush has often been called a “corporate president.” Given the sheer number of yes men surrounding him, the moniker seems fitting. But just as a company’s CEO is accountable to its stockholders, so too is the president accountable to the American citizens and their government. If the Senate finds issue with a multibillion-dollar sale of a federal holding, the president should answer those concerns, be they real or perceived – and not with the threat of a veto.