- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 23, 2006

A profile by any other name still makes sense, as Democratic critics of the Dubai ports deal are learning. Demands for tougher standards of scrutiny of the sale of the United Arab Emirates company that operates six of the most important American seaports are right and reasonable. Profiling by nationality, informed by a little history, is only just and prudent. We now have the Democratic imprimatur on it.

“It is ridiculous to say you’re taking secret steps to make sure that it’s OK for a nation that had ties to 9/11 [to] take over part of our port operations in many of our largest ports,” Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, said of the ports deal. “This has to stop.” She’s right, but the words no doubt sting her tongue and throat.

Mrs. Boxer was once against profiling. She said so long and loud in support of the End Racial Profiling Act of 2004. And not just Barbara Boxer. “This sale will create an unacceptable risk to the security of our ports,” Sens. Hillary Clinton, Robert Menendez, Frank Lautenberg and Boxer wrote to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist on Thursday, urging him to spike the Dubai Ports World deal. “This issue transcends philosophical posturing and partisan bickering — it is about our nation’s security.”

And so it does, but not so long ago most of the high-profile Democrats had nothing but harsh words for profiling. As recently as last July, Mrs. Clinton sounded profiling alarms — scolding the military for profiling recruits by race. She was concerned that “it may be an inappropriate effort to profile students based on ethnicity and other personal factors.” Before that she was lecturing on law enforcement: “Profiling is not an effective law enforcement tool,” Mrs. Clinton told the Senate in mid-2001.

We welcome our liberal friends to the fight to overturn the ports deal, but their argument that their legislative remedy prohibits “government-owned” companies to operate U.S. ports, and not necessarily “Arab-owned” companies, is disingenuous by more than a degree. The firestorm over the ports ought to persuade just about everyone that a careful profiling policy — for nationality in this case, but also for indicators like appearance, dress, speech or even religion in certain circumstances — can be both fair and useful. Such rational profiling is easily justified on national-security grounds. It has nothing to do with gratuitous discrimination. Barbara Boxer, Hillary Clinton and their like-minded colleagues have made the case.

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