- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 1, 2006

As a Democrat I can recall no partisan attack on a Republican that has been orchestrated more skillfully than Sen. Charles Schumer’s denigration of President Bush for allowing a Dubai company to participate in the operation of our ports.

Mr. Schumer’s partisan skill overshadows the efforts of my senator, Joseph Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, to bring intellectual honesty to the critical debate on this issue.

Recently, Mr. Schumer publicized a letter he wrote to the president raising the question of why, as commander in chief, he “did not know about the Dubai port matter until after its speedy approval by Committee for Foreign Investment in the United States?” Also, by demanding answers to questions about “secret” committee procedures he creates the false impression that the Republican president is responsible for the procedures.

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The truth is that the committee’s procedures are mandated by the 1988 Exon-Florio laws which were enacted by a Democrat-controlled Congress and imposed limits on the powers of President George H.W. Bush and future presidents to restrict foreign corporations from operating in the United States.

Exon-Florio mandates that the committee protect national security while preserving the confidence of foreign investors that they will not be subject to retaliatory discrimination. That is exactly what the president has committed himself to accomplishing by not discriminating against our strongest Arab ally.

The law also creates a presumption in favor of giving foreign companies access to our economy. It gives them a right to highly expedited rulings if they merely give the committee advance notice of their intentions (which explains the “speed” in decision-making that Mr. Schumer and others deride).

Finally, another mandate of Exon-Florio which Bush-bashers denounce is that the multi-agency Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States panel is compelled to keep its proceedings secret. The president knows nothing about them until after they are completed.

Some career civil servants on the multi-agency panel also construe Exon-Florio’s secrecy requirements to prevent them from disclosing the proceedings to their own agency heads until the proceedings are concluded (which is why some members of Mr. Bush’s cabinet are now being unfairly ridiculed for not knowing about the Dubai company’s proceedings with the committee from the time they first began).

Given the present efforts of the far-left wing of our party to deprecate the Republican president on every possible front, it is not surprising that they are now attacking him for the Dubai port decision.

What is particularly alarming is that an overwhelming number of media pundits and newscasters have failed to do sufficient homework, and believe that it best serves their popularity and ratings to follow public-opinion polls and join a growing crowd of Bush-bashers.

In my view our party should stop spinning in obstructionist circles, face up to reality and remove some of the tarnish from our public image. My advice is that we should advocate a repeal of our pre-September 11 Exon-Florio laws. This simple clear-cut step would leave such matters to be dealt with by traditional time-tested procedures of congressional oversight.

These are critical times for the legal advisers of our politicians. We should be working together to revive the honest tradition that “partisan politics end at the water’s edge.”

Jerry Zeifman is a former chief counsel of the House Judiciary Committee and the author of “Without Honor: The Crimes of Camelot and the Impeachment of President Nixon.”

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