- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 28, 2006

It’s an ill wind that blows nobody good, and that hot wind out of Dubai is useful, too. It reveals the fault lines of the modern Republican Party while there may be time for someone to do something about it. Or maybe not.

John McCain, the senator from Arizona with a gift for saying things other people won’t, decries the uproar over the Dubai ports deal as “hysteria.” A lot of the noise sure sounds like it.

Some of the president’s friends quickly turned their ire away from the president’s partisan critics and aimed it at the loyalists of his base, dismissing the concerns of red-state conservatives as merely ignorant resentments and lowbrow vexations of hicks in the sticks. Some of his friends took their cue from the president’s professed puzzlement that he didn’t understand how anyone could see any difference between the British, a constant American ally in war and peace for 200 years, and a clutch of Arab emirates who were helpful pals of our most dedicated enemies only five years ago. Soon anyone who expressed skepticism of the deal was a racist, a yahoo, a redneck, a xenophobe, a know-nothing or at least an overwrought Jew or Bible-thumping Christian. One of the president’s loudest apologists, a sometime lobbyist for Islamic causes and the imam of the no-tax movement, caught the sour tone of the hysteria, quoted in the Los Angeles Times: “The only whiners left by next week will be the registered bigots.”

Well, now it’s next week, and the anger bubbles and splutters. The fault line glows like an ember in a dying campfire, illuminating the two faces of the Republican Party. One is the face of the Corporate Republican, the globalist for whom America is only real estate and a comfortable place to do business. The Corporate Republican is embarrassed by the naive enthusiasms of the Heartfelt Republican, who thinks of God and country as one and the same, eager to revere God and ready to defend country when duty calls. Commercial interests are important in their place, but nothing is as important as the nation’s security interests.

John W. Snow, the secretary of the Treasury, and Michael Chertoff, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, offered a succinct summary of the creed of the Corporate Republican in an op-ed essay in this newspaper: “On this issue, the United States has a responsibility to act according to established procedures and to act without bias.” (Italics mine.)

Without bias? The Heartfelt Republican — indeed, most Americans of whatever partisan hue — will always act with bias if it’s bias in favor of the United States. If it’s good for America, it’s good enough for General Motors, and not the other way around, as a chairman of GM famously put it in another time, another place. Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask instead what you can do for your country, even if it means upsetting the schemes of the elites. Arguments by the Corporate Republican that the Dubai deal is “a good business deal” will never resonate with the Heartfelt Republican. Making a buck is important, but “loving your country more than anything else in the world” is most important of all.

Belief and conviction puzzle the elites. Since the elites often regard a church as merely a convenient place to marry their daughters and bury their parents, they imagine that our Islamist enemies don’t really believe that religious stuff, either. A good business deal, struck over brandy and cigars, is what’s worth fighting for.

The White House is betting that the new 45-day review, arranged by the administration and agreed to by the emirs, will cool things off, and in six weeks’ time the deal will go through, and by then we’ll have another blunder to make the public forget this one. But since he asked everyone to take the deal on faith in him, the president and his friends will be held solely accountable if anyone exploits the abundant opportunities to make trouble in New York or Philadelphia or New Jersey or New Orleans. Not fair, but life rarely is.

Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Times.

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