MSNBC Scarborough Country - Transcript

By:  Pete King
Date: Feb. 23, 2006
Location: Unknown

MSNBC Scarborough Country - Transcript


SCARBOROUGH: Thanks so much, David Gregory, at the White House. Now, let's bring in a Republican congressman from New York, Peter King. Peter, you heard it, you've been hearing it all day. The president saying no compromise, I'm not going to back down and I'm not going to allow Congress to investigate for 45 days. So the next political question is, will you in Congress back down and give the president what he wants by turning these ports over to the United Arab Emirates?

REP. PETER KING ® NEW YORK: Joe, first of all, I still think that there is a good chance for compromise. I'm hearing it from people closed to Dubai Ports who say that they realize that they're going to have to put this off for a while. Now again, the devil's in the details, but at least I'm getting some good signals. Having said that, listen, I don't want to get into a war with the president over this, but if they're just talking about putting it off for a few days and no investigation, then I myself can never go along with that because Joe, there has to be an investigation. There's not been one up until now. And when they say if there were just more briefings given and more information given out, everything would be fine, let me tell you, I got briefings last week and the more I heard, the more concerned I got, because this company was never investigated. And all the fact that the Coast Guard or Customs are still going to handle security, the fact is if this company is a problem, then they will be an enemy within our defense perimeter and that's what has to be addressed.

SCARBOROUGH: Congressman, I got to know though and you need to tell me and tell the American people tonight, why is this deal so important to the president of the United States, that he's willing to roll out his first veto in five years to give control of six of our most important ports to a country that was a staging ground for 9/11?

KING: Joe, all I can think of is that he does believe that progress has been made with the United Arab Emirates, that they are working closely with us, more closely now than they used to and he's afraid it's going to cause a diplomatic confrontation with the Arab world. I don't think those reasons are valid. I mean I can see why he's concerned about it, but the security of our ports has to come first. And we do not yet have the assurances that this company is free of an al Qaeda influence. Because no matter what they say, I'm telling you, there was no investigation carried out, and that's the reality.

SCARBOROUGH: Stay with us Congressman King. I want to bring in right now Ann Coulter. She's the author of "Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism." And Ann, you know, maybe the president's right, maybe if we just turn these six ports over to the United Arab Emirates, maybe we'll finally be popular on the Arab street. What do you think, sound like a good deal?

ANN COULTER, AUTHOR, "TREASON": No, I hope that is not his arguments here, though I'm not really sure what his argument is. Well, I'm highly skeptical whenever the Democrats start pretending they care about national security, so I do suspect there's more to the story. But I got to tell you, George Bush isn't making it when he says things like I want someone to tell me what the difference is between a Middle Eastern country and a great British company. I don't think he understands what the point of a rhetorical question is. It's supposed to be a question that can't be answered, not one you can give an answer to for the next two hours. There's a big difference and I think maybe he ought to come up with an answer that isn't some PC response.

SCARBOROUGH: Ann, I'm glad you brought that up. I want to play everybody a clip of what the president said earlier today, again seeming confused as to why some people would differentiate between a private company in Great Britain running these ports and the a company that's owned by a government, again a government with connections to 9/11. Let's play the clip of President Bush earlier today.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What I find interesting is that it's OK for a British company to manage some ports, but not OK for a company from a country that is also a valuable ally on the war on terror. The UAE has been a valuable partner in fighting the war on terror.


SCARBOROUGH: Ann Coulter, the president's not that stupid. What's going on here?

COULTER: I can't imagine. If they're a valuable partner and they've helped us a lot since 9/11, I thank them for that. Maybe we can send them a fruit basket. But I think we want to know more about what their control is going to be of the ports. You know, like I say, I mean I've heard from friends and chit chatting with my brother, better arguments for this deal than I'm hearing from the president. But if he's going to stand up and ask us to say what difference is there in a Middle Eastern country and a British company, I got 3,000 reasons for him.

SCARBOROUGH: And Congressman King, everybody on Capitol Hill has to be rolling their eyes when the president of the United States suggests that those of us who are concerned about a country with connections to 9/11 and a country that helped funnel through or at least who allowed nuclear parts to go to Iran and North Korea through their country, when the president suggests that we are somehow racist against Arabs because we don't like this deal.

KING: The president has told us for 4 ½ years, either you're for us or against us. The UAE has been both for us and against us. They're on both sides, so there's no way you can expect us trust them. And really, for the president of the United States to use the race card or the religion card against people of his own party, who have been the strongest supporters of him in the war against terrorism, I have supported this president on every terrorist initiative, the patriot act, the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, the NSA eavesdropping, all of those issues and Alito and Roberts, all of them, I stand by him completely. But on this one, I honestly believe he's wrong. I came from New York. I listened to an awful lot of constituents and for the president to somehow suggest that by me doing that or Denny Hastert or Bill Frist, that we are anti-Muslim or we're playing a double standard, to me suggests a moral equivalency that really doesn't belong in this debate.

SCARBOROUGH: And Ann Coulter, the president is also insulting millions of his supporters, too, who really are so outraged over this deal. I mean how could the president be so disconnected?

COULTER: Well, he may be able to explain it, but I just don't think he's done that so far. And by the way, in that list of antiterrorism activities that Representative King was just mentioning he supported, the Democrats didn't support those. I mean at least we now have Democrats on record that they are in favor of racial profiling when it comes to companies running the ports and maybe somebody should tell them what's going on at the airports, maybe we can get them on board for a really strong anti-terrorism policy. I do think there's more that meets the eye when you have Hillary Clinton pretending to be concerned about this, but not so worried about reenacting the Patriot Act. But the president isn't making it the way he, as you say, accusing people or questioning them of engaging in racism against Muslims.

SCARBOROUGH: You all stay with us. I want to bring in our panel. We have MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan, Mort Zuckerman, he's editor in chief of "U.S. News & World Report" and Victoria Barrett. She's of "Forbes" magazine. Pat Buchanan, I got to tell you, I cannot believe how badly the president has mishandled this issue. What's going on at the White House? This is like Harriet Miers part two.

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that's just what I was going to say. It's like the Harriet Miers incident. The political antenna has fallen off the roof of the White House again, Joe, in this deal. And quite frankly, the American people's reaction is visceral, it's emotional and they're saying in effect, look, we want Americans defending our border and holding our ports. We don't want foreigners doing it and we certainly don't want Arabs deciding what ship is going to come into Baltimore Harbor. We've seen the movie and so I think this is the - the president didn't see this coming and now he's sort of trying to explain it on a very reasoned level, the Coast Guard and all the rest of things. But this is visceral, this is emotional, this is about national security. This is about borders and frontiers and the American people want absolute security and they don't think they're going to get it with this kind of deal.

SCARBOROUGH: Mort Zuckerman, I was reading your pre-interview and I read how you talked about how this White House is giving the Carter White House a run for its money, when it comes to ineptitude. Talk about that.

MORT ZUCKERMAN, US NEWS & WORLD REPORT: I mean I have to say, I never thought that there would be any administration who would be as politically inept as the Carter administration, but this administration is now giving it a good run. It's absolutely astonishing to me. You were referring to what the president said before. He said why should we treat the United Arab Emirates different from England. Why? That's one of the silliest comments I've ever heard. If he's going to say anything, at least let him say look, that the security that we have when the British owned the company and the security that we have when this UAE company owns the company, may be the same. In fact, may even be enhanced, but to talk about it in those terms is so politically inept it's amazing. If last week, after the Cheney episode, it was the gang that couldn't shoot straight, this week it's the gang that can't think straight. I've just never seen such poor politics.

SCARBOROUGH: Victoria Barrett, we can talk about how bad this is politically, but you personally think it's OK for the UAE to take control of these ports. Talk about that side of the story.

VICTORIA BARRETT, FORBES MAGAZINE: Right. I think this is probably an example of something that even though you can do it, doesn't mean you should. I think it's perfectly reasonable for a London-based company managing these ports to sell those rights to an Arab-based company. We can't be two faced on global trade. We can't say, hey, we want the Middle East to accept democracy and capitalism and yet block them from buying U.S. assets and entities. That's just - it's hypocritical and two-faced. Should this deal have been vetted better? Should the PR have been handled better? Well, definitely. But we have to be really cautious about what—we can't send mixed messages and I think that's what we've risked here.


BUCHANAN: This is exactly the point. When it comes to national security versus globalization, protection of your ports, protection of your borders, globalization goes out the window. That is an intellectual argument. It's not emotional. It doesn't reach sentiments and deep (ph) things like that, patriotism, concern for security. And so globalization is going to be trumped every time in a battle like this. It's like the Panama Canal debate.

SCARBOROUGH: This comes down to openness, doesn't it? Ann keeps talking about keep saying what I say and a lot of Americans think, maybe there's a good explanation for this, but we haven't heard it. And I still want to know, why the hell does a secret committee decide who controls our ports?

ZUCKERMAN Well, one of the things that they should do under these circumstances is release the report of that secret committee. But beyond that, there is an underlying problem that this whole issue ties into. When we all know that the issue is there and that is that our ports by and large are not properly secured, that there are millions and millions of containers coming in all over the country and maybe five or six percent of them are properly examined. We should have a major initiative and everybody has known this for quite a number of years now, in which we examine these containers from the country of origin and from where they are embarked. We don't do anything like that, so we do not have adequate security and to the extent that this country's ownership of the terminals in some of our critical ports raises this issue, it ties it in, that they were completely unaware of it or at least unwilling to deal with it properly just leaves my breathless.

SCARBOROUGH: We're going to continue with this panel after the break, but Peter King, I know you have to go. I need a quick answer. If the president continues to try to shove this down Congress' throat, will Congress override his veto?

KING: Joe, I have no doubt. If the president does not allow an investigation of this deal, I have no doubt that legislation will pass and that if he vetoes it, it will be overridden. I hope it doesn't come to that. I still think we can work it out, but it will be overridden, yes.

SCARBOROUGH: Very good. We'll be right back. Thank you Congressman.


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