The Gurus Take a Country Licking

Article excerpt

Byline: Wesley Pruden, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Casey Stengel could have offered the benediction to the Dubai ports deal, finally laid to rest yesterday, maybe, with a deserved stake through the heart.

The ol' perfessor, driven to distraction trying to manage the ineptitude of the early New York Mets, threw up his hands at season's end and cried to the heavens: "Can't anybody here play this game?"

The emirs of the United Arab Emirates bowed to the inevitable yesterday, saving George W. Bush and his political gurus the embarrassment of losing lopsided votes in both houses of Congress and the humiliation, if the White House had been foolish enough to push it that far, of an override of his first veto.

The confusion over what was going on continued unto the stake-driving moment. Even as the president was entertaining congressional leaders who had arrived with the unwelcome news, Sen. John Warner of Virginia, who had led the Senate defense of the Dubai deal, was on the floor of the Senate, reading the concession statement of DP World.

Several Republicans in the Senate wanted to make a fight, and as late as late Wednesday night some of them talked bravely about turning yahoo sentiment around in their red states, where opposition to the deal was running in the neighborhood of 80 percent against in several public-opinion polls. That's a dangerous neighborhood for any senator to find himself in, even with the sun shining. This time the sun was not shining. The stunning 62-2 vote by the House Appropriations Committee to block the deal no doubt intimidated the Senate, which pretends to think of itself as smarter, sleeker and smoother (or at least slicker) than the House, but senators especially know that it doesn't take a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing.

Several critics of the deal think they still smell something suspiciously like a rat in the works. Rep. Peter King of New York, a Republican, wants to see the details. "It would have to be an American company with no links to DP World, and that would be a tremendous victory and very gratifying." Others just want to be done with controversy. "This should make the issue go away," said Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee, the leader of the Republican majority in the Senate. …