PORTGATE….So what’s up with this Dubai port deal, anyway? I hate to say it, but I can’t help but think that Bush may be right about the whole thing. Just for the record:

  • This isn’t a matter of outsourcing a government operation to a private company. P&O has been operating ports in the United States (and the rest of the world) for a long time, and they do it under contract with the port authorities, not the federal government. What’s more, there are plenty of port operators in the United States besides P&O that are foreign owned too.

  • P&O doesn’t “own” the ports, they just manage one or more terminals at each of their ports and try to make money by attracting shipping companies to their terminals.

  • P&O was on the auction block no matter what. If Dubai Ports hadn’t purchased them, PSA International of Singapore would have acquired them instead.

  • Port workers would mostly (all?) be American union members regardless of who owns the management company. Security will continue to be provided by the Coast Guard and U.S. Customs.

Politically, this whole thing is astoundingly tone deaf, especially since Bush did it without consulting anyone in Congress. Substantively, though, I’m not quite sure I get the fuss. Would we really be any safer if P&O were acquired by a Singaporean company? Frankly, the real scandal is that we’re not already handling port security as if every port management company in the U.S. had a member of al-Qaeda on its board of directors.

Am I missing something? Substantively, that is, not politically.