Cameron misrepresented Harman-Collins port ownership proposal to accuse Democrats of playing politics
Fox News' Carl Cameron reported that congressional Democrats are "hoping for an election-year chance to appear more hawkish than the president on national security," in "pushing legislation to block" a proposal to permit a company owned by the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to manage port terminals in six major U.S. cities. But one of the two Democrats Cameron cited in his report has proposed such legislation jointly with a Republican senator, undermining Cameron's suggestion that Democrats are objecting to the deal for purely political reasons.
On the February 22 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, chief White House correspondent Carl Cameron reported that congressional Democrats are "hoping for an election-year chance to appear more hawkish than the president on national security," in "pushing legislation to block" a proposal that would let a company owned by the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) manage port terminals in six major U.S. cities. But one of the two Democrats Cameron cited in his report has proposed such legislation jointly with a Republican senator, undermining Cameron's suggestion that Democrats are objecting to the deal for purely political reasons. Moreover, Cameron, host Brit Hume, and Fox "All-Star" panelist Charles Krauthammer did not question the motives of Republicans who oppose the ports takeover or are calling for hearings on the matter, despite ascribing political motives to Democrats who oppose the takeover.
Cameron's segment featured clips of two Democrats -- Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) and Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) -- who have both promised (see press releases here and here) to introduce legislation opposing the takeover:
CAMERON: Despite the president's veto threat, Democrats are pushing legislation to block the deal, hoping for an election-year chance to appear more hawkish than the president on national security.
HARMAN [video clip]: We will introduce next week in Congress -- Congress is out of session this week -- a resolution of disapproval.
DORGAN [video clip]: I believe this decision is going to be overturned and quickly.
But Harman promised to introduce legislation calling on the Bush administration to reconsider the ports takeover jointly with Republican Sen. Susan Collins (ME) and, in fact, the "we" in the Harman clip played during the segment referred to Collins. From Harman and Collins's February 21 press release:
Senator Susan Collins, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and Congresswoman Jane Harman (D-CA), Member of the House Homeland Security Committee, today announced their intent to introduce a resolution calling upon the Administration to reconsider the sale of Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O) to Dubai Ports World (DPW). Senator Collins said that she believes that the Administration must take a closer look at the transaction in order to ensure that it will not have an adverse affect on our national security.
Further undermining Cameron's suggestion that Democrats are opposing the ports deal purely for political gain in an election year, Harman and Collins's press release also noted that Collins joined with a Republican senator and two Democratic senators in sending letters to two Bush cabinet secretaries "expressing 'serious concerns' " over the proposed ports takeover:
In addition to announcing a joint resolution, Senator Collins sent letters to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Department of Treasury Secretary John Snow expressing "serious concerns" with the proposed sale of operations at six major U.S. ports to Dubai Ports World (DPW), a company owned by the government of the United Arab Emirates. The letter was also signed by Ranking Member Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), and Senators Norm Coleman (R-MN), Chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations and Carl Levin (D-MI), Ranking Member.
Despite ascribing political motives to Democrats who oppose the port deal, Cameron did not question the motives of Republicans who oppose the takeover or who are calling for hearings on the matter. Instead, he uncritically reported the statements of House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL), Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) on the issue, paraphrasing McCain's and Frist's explanations of why they want congressional hearings:
CAMERON: House Speaker Dennis Hastert wrote the president today, quote: "I believe there should be an immediate moratorium placed on this seaport deal in order to further examine its effects on our port security." North Carolina Republican Sue Myrick wrote the president, quote: "In regards to selling American ports to the United Arab Emirates, not just NO -- but HELL NO!" Arizona Senator John McCain said hearings are necessary so lawmakers can hear the facts.
McCAIN [video clip]: This company is not in charge of security. They will be in charge of port operations. The security will continue to be handled by the Coast Guard and other federal agencies. But let's have hearings, and let's see what happens.
CAMERON: The GOP Senate leader indicated that the administration's say-so is not enough. Lawmakers need to see for themselves that security will be maintained.
FRIST [video clip]: We need to be convinced of that. We need to be brought up to that same comfort level that clearly the administration does have today. And I think that once that is done, a final decision can be made.
Similarly, during the "All-Star Panel" segment of the program, Hume asserted that "this issue has clearly enabled Democrats to appear at least to be to the right of the president on a war on terror, homeland security issue." Krauthammer said it was unlikely that Democrats would benefit in the November congressional elections because their reaction to the deal "looks like demagoguery ... and it surely is."
From the "All-Star Panel" segment, which included National Public Radio national political correspondent Mara Liasson:
HUME: Now, this issue has clearly enabled Democrats to appear at least to be to the right of the president on a war on terror, homeland security issue. If this decision -- if this goes on as it appears it's going to, will that stand and make a difference, say in the fall election? Or by the fall elections?
KRAUTHAMMER: No, I think not. Because it's obvious that on the war on terror, the president has been strong. He'll have to make an explanation about why he's sticking with his guns on this. People really don't think that he's gone soft on Al Qaeda on this. So I'm not sure it's going to have a lot -- I mean, it looks like demagoguery on the part of the Democrats, and it surely is.
LIASSON: Well, they've got a lot of company. When you have Bill Frist and Dennis Hastert, I think don't think the Democrats are leading this charge at all.
KRAUTHAMMER: The Democrats are not going to shift on this. I think Republicans will.