There’s no getting around it. The Dubai deal ended badly for all
concerned — except those members of Congress, Republican and
Democratic, running for re-election who exploited it to puff up their
national-security credentials.

The administration can be faulted for mishandling it. President
Bush’s aides never informed him that allowing an Arab firm to manage
marine terminals at six U.S. ports was politically explosive, and Bush
was blindsided as a result.

The American public was overwhelmingly opposed to the deal as
presented to it, but the American public was also overwhelmingly
misinformed about the specifics by politicians and broadcast talkers.

The deal was never about security; that was and would remain in the
hands of the Coast Guard, Customs and port police. And it was never
about American jobs that would have remained unchanged except for the
name on the paycheck. The same company, DP World, will be shipping
containers to the United States from the worldwide ports it manages; it
just won’t be unloading them here. In the face of Congress’ noisy
political opposition, DP World agreed to transfer those functions to a
U.S. entity.

What are other nations to conclude from the U.S. thumbs-down on a
deal backed by the United Arab Emirates, probably our closest ally in
the Persian Gulf? Probably that the United States is hostile to Arab
investment and even to Arabs themselves. And maybe that all that U.S.
talk about free trade and investment is hypocrisy. Face it: As long as
we keep running budget and trade deficits, we really need outside

As for Bush, the rebuff by his own party shows that his clout in
Congress has badly diminished over the past year. That played out not
only in the Dubai deal, but in congressional Republicans discarding
most of the president’s budget initiatives.

It will take more than happy talk from Karen Hughes, the president’s
public-relations emissary to the Arab world, to put a smiley face on
this one.

(Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)