The mainstream right finds itself in an unusual position with some fraternal warring over the ports question. Meanwhile, other bloggers raise their eyebrows over the Philippine president's apparent "coup" worries, and the attendant "state of emergency."
Partisan review: One of the more interesting components of the debate over whether to allow a United Arab Emirates-based company to oversee some U.S. port traffic is how it's engendered factionalism within the broader conservative movement. Late Thursday, Dubai Ports World offered to delay the deal. The blogosphere has captured well the rhythms of this intramural back-and-forth.
Self-critical conservative Andrew Sullivan is offering the administration some strategic council: "Politically, it seems to me that the Bush response should ... focus on a renewed effort to secure the ports, allotting as much money and manpower as we do for airports. He can and should defend the P&O deal, while acknowledging that much more needs to be done for port security. Of course, given the rebellious mood among the GOP grass roots, this may still not be enough."
Former Reagan and Bush père speechwriter Peggy Noonan, in her op-ed column in Thursday's OpinionJournal, sees the current kerfuffle over who guards our ports as important as that old, familiar one: "I wonder if the backlash against President Bush isn't partly due to the fact that everyone in America has witnessed or has been a victim of the incompetence of the airport security system. Why would people assume the government knows what it's doing when it makes decisions about the ports? It doesn't know what it's doing at the airports." Righty-libertarian Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit agrees: "Homeland Security remains pretty much a joke—air, sea, and land."
Daniel McKivergan at the neoconservative WorldwideStandard.com, an offshoot foreign-policy blog of the Weekly Standard, is ambivalent himself, except when it comes to the loud and assured: "I doubt most of the people making categorical statements on the wisdom of the deal have a clue as to the nuts and bolts of port operations/security, the role the U.A.E. has played in the war on terror, or if there is another intelligence component to this that hasn't been made public. The current deal may or may not be a good idea but the debate, so far, is about as phony as Washington can get. In the end, my guess is that a compromise will be struck allowing an amended deal to move foward."
But other righties are hoping it doesn't, with a vengeance. Michelle Malkin last night, in an exhaustive post, dismissed the White House charge of Islamophobia or racism as the unacknowledged impulse behind some Republican intransigence: "The supporters of, and retreaters on, the deal are also silent about the unprecedented, Islamic law-compliant funding scheme that allowed state-owned Dubai Ports World to force its more experienced rival to drop its bid for P&O. (The underwriters of Dubai Ports World's $3.5 billion Islamic financing instrument called a "sukuk"—Barclay's and Dubai Islamic Bank—were both cited as probable conduits for bin Laden money.)" Malkin's co-thinker on this issue is Andrew McCarthy at the National Review's blog The Corner. He writes, "If the UAE, or any country, endorses—however passively—the proposition that indiscriminate bombing attacks against civilian targets can ever be legitimate, why should we allow such a country to be in a position to affect our border security? How could we consider it a good ally (even if it may be less offensive than a country like Iran)? I'm not saying we need to go to war with them, but why would we give them a place at our table?"
Liberals can't help but look on with amusement commingled with nostalgia for their own bouts of ideological infighting. Slate'sownMickey Kaus picks up on the racist trope in particular: "Wasn't it the left's traditional strategy—e.g.,when people raised doubts about the welfare system and its effect on work and family structure—to charge that legitimate worries were really disguised bigots?"
Read more on the GOP fracas over ports. John Dickerson reported on the port controversy in Slate earlier this week.
Marcos Polo: Phillipine president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared a state of emergency Friday, ostensibly in light of a thwarted "coup" against her regime. Yet today marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Marcos dictatorship, and part and parcel with the "double red alert" sounded in Manila is the banning of all protests commemorating that occasion. Arroyo's protectionist pitch came just a week after mudslides ravaged part of the archipelago and U.S. forces were dispatched to help with humanitarian relief. Given the eerie lineaments of déjà vu, bloggers take the long view of history on this one.
Wretchard at the Pajama Media-syndicated historical watch-site The Belmont Club notes the strange (and historically well-precedented) concatenation between U.S. military presence and Philippine unrest: "As it happens, the USS Essex amphibious group is currently tied up providing rescue and relief to the victims of the massive landslide in Leyte. This will be awkward should the amphibious group be needed to cover the remote, but nevertheless conceivable scenario of securing US citizens in Manila."
John at A Lie a Day is worried about the fundie fallout should Arroyo's announced threat prove genuine: "This is real test for one of Asian allies, and an area where stability is a real concern. Islamic extremist exists in some area of that nation, and instability will allow them more freedom to operate and expand."
Read more about the Philippine state of emergency.