Sunday, February 26, 2006

Bainbridge on Deference to Bush

Professor Bainbridge, who is always insightful (and not infrequently entertaining) raises an interesting point regarding deference to Bush on the pending Dubai Ports deal and the withdrawn Harriet Miers nomination:

I have no dog in the port fight. It's one on which I think reasonable people can differ. It would be interesting, however, to figure out how many center-right bloggers/politicians/pundits were willing to defer to President Bush's judgment when he nominated Harriet Miers but are not willing to defer to Bush's judgment on the port deal.

As to Prof. Bainbridge's first point, it's not clear from the statement whether he is addressing the question of whether the takeover itself is acceptable, or whether the CFIUS review of the deal was conducted properly. I agree that the former question is onr about which reasonable minds may differ. I have trouble, however, accepting that there's a resonable argument that the CFIUS performed its oversight duties properly in this case. In order to accept that it did, one must accept the proposition that the takeover of U.S. port terminals by the government of the UAE "could not affect national security," and therefore did not justify additional scrutiny. If I understand the statute correctly, it is not even a question of whether the transaction would affect national security (a question about which reasonable minds could perhaps differ.) It is, rather, a question of whether a takeover of American seaports by a foreign government could affect national security (a question about which reasonable minds could not differ, IMHO).

Without respect to the above, the second point presents a damn good question, particularly as regards Hugh Hewitt, who was rock-solid with trusting the President on the nomination of Harriet Miers (a decision which we might have been stuck with for decades) but not at all willing to trust him on Dubai Ports (which could theoretically be revisted and corrected at any time). For my part, I bailed on Bush upon his nomination of Miers. The Miers nomination evinced, for me, a huge deficiency in the President's critical thinking skills. There are many issues about which reasonable minds can differ, but I didn't see the Miers nomination as one of them. In the wake of the nomination, the bulk of the arguments presented for supporting the President were founded upon the merits of party unity rather than the merits of the nominee. Miers was the last straw for me, as it apparently was for Prof. Bainbridge. I'm not sure whether Hewitt's change in position derives from a change in his opinion of Bush. Perhaps in retrospect, the Miers fiasco forced Hewitt to reevaluate the prudence of placing a high degree of trust in the President's judgment.


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