updated 2/24/2006 10:21:47 AM ET 2006-02-24T15:21:47

Guest: Peter King, Ann Coulter, Victoria Barrett, Mort Zuckerman, Jack Burkman, Barbara Boxer

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Hey, thanks so much, Rita.  And right now in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, rebellion over port security.  The outrage over putting an Arab country in charge of ports from New York to Miami continues to rage in Washington.  And the president's key advisor may be talking about compromise, but the president sounds defiant.  Will angry politicians agree to cut a deal? Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, no passport required and only common sense allowed. 

Thanks so much for being with me tonight.  Now, the storm over security at our nation's ports is getting even angrier as tempers have been flaring on Capitol Hill today and the president's staunchest supporters continue their revolt.  Let's begin with NBC's chief White House correspondent David Gregory.  We'll go to the White House now to get the latest on how the president is dealing with this political firestorm.  David, what you got?

DAVID GREGORY, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Joe, tonight officials say the president is sticking to his guns on this.  He still promises to veto any attempt to unravel this port deal.  Aides say he also does not support a 45-day investigation which some in Congress are calling for.  He would, however, accept a slight delay so that additional members of Congress can get briefed on this.  And that's really what the White House thinks has to happen. The more they can communicate, kind of flood the zone with information about how this went forward, they think people will become more comfortable.  The president talked about all of this today in a cabinet meeting, suggesting again, the more people know about it, the more they will get comfortable. 

Some experts maintain that the security risks associated with this deal are being greatly exaggerated by the politicians.  One former Bush administration official who spoke with us today suggested look, not only will customs and the Coast Guard still have control of security for U.S.  ports, but the UAE, the United Arab Emirates has also signed,  along with 42 other countries we are major seaports, a container inspection  initiative.  Whether that's enough to calm the political storm here is still not clear.  For the moment, though, the White House is hoping that with more briefings, more information, they can try to head off this course towards some kind of show down between Capitol Hill and the White House.  Joe. 

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.


SCARBOROUGH: In this debate over port security, a lot of questions remain about the United Arab Emirates.  Does that country pose real security risks to Americans? And what is the United Arab Emirates? Here to educate us on that is NBC terror analyst Evan Kohlmann.  Now Evan, last night I thought you gave a very, very eloquent explanation why you did not believe that it's going to pose a great risk to America, but talk about UAE  Who were they pre-9/11. Who are they now?

EVAN KOHLMANN, NBC TERRORISM ANALYST: The United Arab Emirates is one of several countries in the Persian Gulf that for a number of years has provided a haven for financial graft, for misdeeds, for terrorist financing.  And certainly, I can tell you that I've seen direct evidence of financial transfers from the UAE to 9/11 hijackers in the United States.  And even after 9/11, up to two years after 9/11, senior al Qaeda members, top ranking al Qaeda members were still being detained in the UAE, planning acts of terrorism there.  Now it's important to recognize here they were be detained by the government of the UAE.   And ever since 9/11, that government has done a lot in order to catch up to where we want it to be.  Is it all the way there? Certainly not.  But they have made a tremendous amount of progress.  Are they a friend of al Qaeda anymore? I really think the answer is no.  There are individuals in the UAE that continue to finance terrorism, but they have nothing to do with the government.  They are independent operators.

SCARBOROUGH: Now, the 9/11 commission had many complaints about the UAE.   The Treasury Department complained that they were not cooperating with the investigation post-9/11.  Do you believe that that was because they were trying to clean up the mess as they were making this transition from a friend of al Qaeda and a friend of the Taliban to a country that decided they better be on our side?

KOHLMANN: It's very possible.  And if that's the case, they certainly wouldn't be alone.  Qatar, which is right next door, is home to one of the largest U.S. military bases in the world.  In fact, really the headquarters for the U.S. operation in Iraq and lLet's not forget that in 1996, it was the government of Qatar that helped spirit Khalid Shaikh Mohammed out of their country when it discovered the CIA was about to arrest him.  Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was not the mastermind at al Qaeda, was the direct master mine of 9/11.  If anyone bears responsibility for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed being around in 9/11, it was the government of Qatar.  Yet we are now close allies with them.  I think you could say the same with the Saudis.  There is still a lot of room for progress to be made.  But there has been progress made. And I mean, let's not forget also that the United Arab Emirates is not the only Arab country with interests here in the United States.  In fact, a Kuwait-based shipping company has been around and active, working at ports, including the port of New York and the port of Newark for years without incident. 

SCARBOROUGH: Let's bring back our panel right now and Ann Coulter, I want to ask you that racial profiling question, because a lot of Americans believe we should engage in racial profiling in our airports. And I'll tell you, I'm one of them.  The question is though, do we expand it out to an entire country, into an entire region?

COULTER: Well, sure for something like this.  This is why I want Denmark to run our ports.  They could use a little business right now, apparently.  Which by the way goes into the, we need more information category.  I don't know if this is true, I didn't hear it from President Bush, but one thing I've been told is that the United Arab Emirates partner in this deal are the Danes.  That would be a better argument for someone like me than, what's the difference of a Middle Eastern company and a great British company. And  I mean as Mort Zuckerman was saying, it doesn't take that many people.  The ports are a huge problem, because among the things we're worried about is a weapon of mass destruction in a port.  It doesn't take many people. We have a lot of ships coming in with a lot of cargo.  This is a big problem and -and I don't know why we can't engage in free trade and sell tchotchkes without saying, but you can't run our ports. 

SCARBOROUGH: And friends, we have breaking news that's coming into us right now.  The Associated Press is reporting that the company has offered to delay part of its $6.8 billion deal to take over operations at six U.S.  ports.  They're doing that obviously because of a firestorm and Pat Buchanan, you saw Karl Rove coming out earlier today talking about a possible delay even as the president is remaining defiant.  What's going on here politically, now that you've got this UAE company who's connected to the country, now, according to this breaking news, deciding to step back?

BUCHANAN: Here's what's happening. I think the White House clearly knows it's got a firestorm on its hands.  As Peter said, they can't override a veto.  It's going to continue. They're being damaged. I'm sure they've got a back channel call to the folks over in the UAE  and said can you give us a break, can you cut us some slack and these  guys said sure, we'll pull back on this thing for a while.  And I think both sides clearly want to stand down Joe, rather than have this thing go forward, because there's no doubt about it, if this deal is flat out rejected by the Congress, the message that will be sent to the Middle East is when it comes to American security, no Arabs need apply. 

SCARBOROUGH: You know, Mort, I'm just going to ask, why does it come to this? How did the White House screw this up so much that you've got the president coming out defiantly for two days saying hell, no I'm not going to back down.  And then you've got Karl Rove coming out and saying well, we may back down a little bit.  Then they end up having this company say, OK, we agree to delay it.  I mean how can the White House screw this up so badly?

ZUCKERMAN: Well, it starts with the committee that really investigates foreign investments in this country, which is a very high-level committee, including the secretary of State, the secretary of Commerce, the secretary of the Treasury, the secretary of Homeland Security, et cetera.  So it's a very, very high-level committee.  Whatever investigation they made, that report, it seems to me, has got to be revealed in some serious way both to the Congress and the public to satisfy the concerns that have been raised.  How they could be unaware that the possibility that a UAE or an Arab country in effect running terminals in our ports would not be perceived as a political issue is beyond me.  I mean it just seems to be fairly obvious that this would be an issue. 

So somewhere or another, there is like a political blind spot.  I mean this group in the White House are very good at the politics of elections, but at the politics of these issues, as Pat said, they're falling all over the place.  I just do not understand what has happened here, that they have, in a sense, lost the feel.  It's a (INAUDIBLE) the single issue on the basis of which this administration retains its credibility, which is national security. 

BUCHANAN: Joe, let me step in very briefly. Look, Chertoff and Snow are not political figures.  If you've got somebody making a decision like this, this important decision, there should be a top sensitive political guy sitting in the meetings and say look, this just isn't going to be able to be sold politically, I don't care whether it's a good thing or not, because the idea of Arabs running our ports will not go over.  Obviously nobody in that meeting came out or called the White House and said we're about to do something that's going to blow up. 

SCARBOROUGH: And Victoria Barrett, you have suggested that there are obviously bigger problems with ports, when it comes to port safety. 

BARRETT: There are. 

SCARBOROUGH: This administration had to know this has been really one of their weak spots.  So why do as Pat say, why do you trot out a deal where you have an Arab country running your ports?

BARRETT: It's absolutely puzzling.  But I think to put this into a little perspective, I think it's more important—less important who is running our ports than how we're running them and how we're managing the global system of containership management.  The fact is, we don't know when a container ship full of Gap T-shirts let's say leaves a port in Pakistan, it will make, on average, 17 stops in places like Mumbai, Suez Canal and  we have no system for tracking what happens to those containers in that time.  And the little—these containers are kept closed with little plastic latches.  It's unbelievable.  And so my hope is that the positive outcome in this situation is we take a real hard look at the overall system and use better technology.  I had a meeting with a CEO of Unisys and they're actually working with the Department of Homeland Security on this very issue, how do we use the best technology to get a better tracking system worldwide.  It's in the interest of the American people and companies. Companies want to know where their stuff is. 

SCARBOROUGH: And you know Ann Coulter, it's so dangerous, Ann, when we just hear what Victoria said about how a ship leaves Pakistan. It goes through 17 countries.  Of course everybody knows about Tom Clancy's book, “The Sum of All Fears,” what happened in that, where you can actually take one of these ships right into a port, have a nuclear device on there and flatten an American city.  That is not farfetched, is it?

COULTER: Right.  But I saw the movie version, so it was Nazis in my story and not Arab terrorists.  The whole port issue is a huge problem and the fact that our ports on the west coast,  I mean I think since Clinton have been run by the Chinese.  We might want to take a peek at that, too.  Now is the time to strike.  We finally have Democrats on record supporting racial profiling, when it comes to companies at least running our ports.  Let's strike now and get the whole thing cleaned up. 

SCARBOROUGH: All right and you all stay with us.  Much more and again breaking news.  Dubai Ports World is offering to delay their deal that would allow them to run six of the most important ports in the United States.  We're going to continue with breaking  news as it comes to us and our all star panel when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.


SCARBOROUGH:  Breaking news, it's just crossed the A.P.  wire.  The UAE Company Dubai Ports World has agreed to delay part of its $6.8 billion deal to take over six of our most important ports in America.  We're going to continue with this breaking news as it develops in just a minute.  But first, here's the latest news you and your family need to know. 


SCARBOROUGH:  Breaking news just in to us, the “Associated Press” is reporting that Dubai Ports World, that UAE company, that was going to take control of six U.S. ports has offered to delay part of its $6.8 billion deal to take over operations at those ports.  We're going to be talking about that with our all-star panel, but the first the battle over port security is proving to an easy target for democrats on Capitol Hill.  Take a look at what happened when administration officials went to the Hill to brief senators about the port deal. 


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK:  If 9/11 was a failure of imagination, and Katrina was a failure of initiative, this process is a failure of judgment.  In the post-9/11 world, port security is too important an issue to be treated so cavalierly. 

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN:  But we now know that the most senior levels of the administration learned of this decision in the last few days by hearing about it in the media.  And as so obvious happens around here, the administration now seeks to avoid the checks and balances of congressional involvement. 

EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  If port security is not a top priority to our own government, how can we expect it to be a priority for a foreign government?  We cannot risk contracting out our national security and we cannot keep nickel and diming the Coast Guard and port security.  We need to get—finally, finally serious and we need to get this right. 

CLINTON:  This is not in any way directed at any particular country, but as a matter of national security, in the post-9/11 world, I think we have to take a hard look at this. 


SCARBOROUGH:  Let's bring back in our all-star panel and also bring in a republican strategist, Jack Burkman.  You know, Mort Zuckerman, my issue with this—or I got so many issues with it, but I'm concerned that the president and the White House has said well, the president really didn't know about this until it went down, and I guess it goes back to, again, how this process takes place, that you turn over your most important ports to a country with connections to 9/11 and the commander in chief doesn't even know you're doing it. 

ZUCKERMAN:  Well, I think that is one aspect of it.  I can understand why every one of the committee meetings doesn't bubble up to the president's level, but it certainly should be known by the secretary of the treasury, because this is, after all, a foreign investment.  He said he didn't know about it until he read it in the media.  Everybody's backing away from it, it was headed up—the committee was headed up by the undersecretary of state, Bob Kimet and had a very distinguished group of people, but as Pat said before, apparently none of them had any political sense of how sensitive this issue would be.  And the broader issue is there is a sense of insecurity in the country about our ports.  And they—this administration has not done anything serious to address that this issue.  As I said, what they—every know what has to be done.  It's going to cost us between four and $5 billion a year to examine the containers at the countries of origin and we have the technology to follow it and keep it sealed.  We haven't done anything like that. 

JACK BURKMAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  George Bush can't catch a break.  If he politicizes national security, people blast him and they say you shouldn't be playing politics with national security.  If the White House sits down, makes a decision that is in the best interest of the country based on national security, what do we say then?  Then Pat and Ann and everybody comes out and says, well, he has a tin ear.  He should consider politics and public relations.  He should make these decisions in a cable news savvy way.  We're getting him on both ends if.

SCARBOROUGH:  Jack, we're talking about turning over ports to an Arab country.  Are you for turning our ports over to an Arab country? 

BURKMAN:  Let me defend.  Yes.  Let me defend.

ZUCKERMAN:  That goes with the territory.  That's the president—the job of the president of the United States to honorable both issues. 

BURKMAN:  Let me offer this defense.

ZUCKERMAN:  If he can't handle both issues at the same time, that's tough.  He has to be able to do that. 

BURKMAN:  He is handling both.  But I'll tell you this, let me defend

the UAE, here, I heard your terrorism expert.  Some of the things he said

could be said about virtually any Arab country.  Yes, there were two or

three of the hijackers who happened carry UAE Passports, but Dubai is a

huge center of international commerce, my goodness gracious, thousands of

people carry passports from the UAE.  That means nothing.  I'll tell you

something, Joe.  9/11 had this country had enforced our own immigration

laws, and you know this, we could have probably foiled 9/11.  Those

hijackers spent more time in the United States than they ever spent in the

UAE And more than that, the UAE, as the president has indicated, you

probably couldn't conduct the Iraq war, it's tough enough, but you couldn't

even conduct it without the logistical support, the flyovers, the stopovers

·         it's almost impossible for people.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, Jack, let me ask you.  Would you have problem with us turning over our ports to Sudan or Iran? 

BURKMAN:  Those are very different—those are very different circumstances.  Sudan is a country torn by civil war, of course I wouldn't do that.  Iran is virtual barbarous state run by a crazy man.  The UAE is nothing like those countries, Joe. 

And I think part of the problem is this debate we—this debate has been consumed by this kind of provincialism, where the Congress doesn't have a sense of what the UAE is.  Now I will say this, admittedly, the president should have been out there—I mean, I don't think the public relations part of this was handled in a terribly dynamic way.  But I think the decision is a sound one. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So, Pat Buchanan, what do you do, moving forward?  Again, you've got the president of the United States being defiant.  You've got Karl Rove backing up and our breaking news tonight, according to the “Associated Press,” the Dubai Ports World is now also backing down.  What does the president do next? 

BUCHANAN:  This is exactly—they're doing exactly what they ought to be doing right now.  Here's what's happening, Joe.  Clearly the president's headed for direct a head-on collision with his own party in Congress, with the democrats siding with his party.  He's got the real possibility of getting beat.  If he loses this thing, the Arabs lose face because they've said they can't handle security.  So they get to the Dubai guys and they say stand down for a while from this, move back from it, so we can avoid this confrontation right now and let's let this thing simmer down. 

BURKMAN:  Yeah, but Pat.

BUCHANAN:  I think what's happening is exactly the right thing. 

BURKMAN:  I don't agree with you, if.

BUCHANAN:  Having the guys in Dubai step down.

BURKMAN:  If you want to talk politics, Joe, it's too late for the president to turn around, he crossed his Rubicon on this several days ago.  The only thing he can do now is to stand firm, and I'll tell you what, if the president stands firm on this, if you want to talk politics, even if Congress override his veto, if he can muster the tenacity, the courage to give a passionate prime-time address, I think he'll go up five to seven points. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh good lord!

BURKMAN:  Because the public's looking for his leadership.


SCARBOROUGH:  Jack don't—now hold on, Jack.  I've got to cut you off right there.  And jack, you're not allowed to interrupt when I ask this next question to Mort. 

Mort, do you think the president of the United States, delivering a prime-time address to Americans, trying to defend turning over six of our most important ports to a country with connections to 9/11 will help his poll ratings go up or down? 

ZUCKERMAN:  I have to say the possibility that it will go down five points is much greater than the possibility it will go up, as far as I'm concerned.  But it doesn't mean that the president shouldn't and will not take a lead.  He must take a lead here, but he's got to inform the American public and the Congress to a much greater degree than he has. 


ZUCKERMAN:  And it has to be in terms that the people can understand, and there has to be a broader program.

BUCHANAN:  Look, it's not.

ZUCKERMAN:  .here to protect our port. 

BUCHANAN:  Mort, it's not.

ZUCKERMAN:  It has not being done. 

BUCHANAN:  It's not worth it for the president to expend all—look, it is a tough situation it's in.  The president doesn't go and expand the limited capital he's got left in going to the war to defend the right of the Sheiks to run the ports in the United States. 


SCARBOROUGH:  Gentlemen, I'm going to have to interrupt here right now. 

BUCHANAN:  It is a mistake.


SCARBOROUGH:  We've got breaking news, of course, we have the breaking news about Dubai Ports World backing off for now, helping to relieve some pressure from the White House by saying right now they're going to delay this deal.  But I want to bring in NBC's White House correspondent, David Gregory, to give us a little background on this. 

David, we've seen the president acting defiant.  Obviously, Karl Rove backed down a little bit today.  What can you tell us about the developments to—that led to this breaking news tonight? 

GREGORY:  Joe, can you hear me OK?  Do we have a good connection?

SCARBOROUGH:  I sure—yeah, we sure do.  Go ahead. 

GREGORY:  OK, good, I was just double checking that.  Well, the news is just crossing—I'm looking at wire reports saying that, in fact, Dubai Ports World, which is, of course, is the UAE company that is at the center of all this, this $7 billion takeover of operations in six U.S. ports has now agreed now on its own accord to delay part of its takeover for a period of time.  It seems like this is a decision coming from the company that, as some of the final touches are put on the deal, that they would agree to delay it, and if that's in fact the case, it would relieve some of the tension that Washington is going through right now because it would allow for some kind of investigation to take place.  It's not clear to me what legal mechanism there would be, but it would provide more time. 

As you were just talking about, Karl Rove signaled today, and White House officials I spoke to said, look, the president's not changing his mind.  He would veto anything that would unravel the deal.  He doesn't even support a 45-day investigation, he thinks the vetting has been appropriate, but the White House has admitted it's appropriate to brief members of Congress, they feel like they didn't do that efficiently and it would be to their benefit if they could get a little bit more time to just flood the zone with information, answer questions, answer concerns, and it appears that this will be the result of this decision to temporarily halt the deal.  I think that the details will be interesting in terms of how long of a delay we're talking about and whether that's enough to pacify both republicans and democrats who say, you know, no, we need a full-fledged investigation here.  But it may be a way to kind of thread the needle a little bit, let everybody vent their spleen, ask their questions, be critical and save face a little bit for the White House.  So I don't think really wanted to veto something that was—could A.  be overridden in Congress and was such a big deal. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And be so unpopular.  David Gregory, NBC's chief White House correspondent.  Thank you so much for being with us and coming back, to give us an update on this breaking news.  Let's go now to U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer. 

Senator Boxer, what do you make of this breaking news?  Do you think we're moving in the right direction to possibly cause a delay that will give you enough time to figure out what's behind this port deal? 

SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA:  Well, I look at it this way, I think delay is the first step toward cancellation.  And nothing short of that, you know, would be the right thing for this country.  This is the kind of situation, Joe, where—first—because you know about this, since you've been in elected life.  First you have a gut check and then you come in and you do the work and you put your brain to work and this is the kind of deal where it feels bad in your gut, and the more you look, the more upsetting it gets and if you listen carefully to David's words, I wrote them down, you're very good reporter there, he said that they may be delaying “parts” of the takeover for a “period of time.”  You know, we have to think about what that means, delaying parts of the takeover.  Is this a way to get their foot in the door?  So here's the thing, and since I talked to you last—first I want to thank you so much for, you know, airing this issue and when you asked me it was Tuesday night on your show what I thought people could do, I said please, please flood the White House, please let them know how you feel.  Look I think they know how the people feel, this is not a partisan issue.  This is an issue where we have to decide if our security comes first and I think the American people are there.  We believe our security should come first.  And the more you look at this deal, the more you realize that it was about business coming first and security not coming first. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Senator, explain something to me.  I've been critical for some time of democrats in Washington being disconnected with Middle America.  A lot of presidential candidates, obviously, for the Democratic Party have had a hard time connecting with Middle America.  George Bush hasn't.  I mean, he walks the walk, he talks the talk, and yet on an issue like this, he's been so tone deaf and he's been marching out on the lawn of the White House basically saying “hell no, I'm not backing down.”  What is the president missing here? 

BOXER:  This thing is bizarre, because remember how defiant the president was when he came out and said “I'm going to do everything I can to make sure this bill goes forward and I'm going to veto” which he's never done before, a piece of legislation overturning this deal.  And then we find out he didn't even know about it.  So you need to ask yourself a question, if he didn't know about it, why is he so engaged in this thing?  It seems to me he has a lot of involvement here and I welcome the time to take a look at it.  And, look, I'm the last person to believe that, you know, there are conspiracy theories, but I have to say this, if you start piecing this thing together, Joe, and you see that the United Arab Emirates has a big connection with the Carlisle Group, where George Bush's dad was involved, they just invested something like—billions—I think it was $8 billion into the Carlisle Group.  If you look at John Snow, the secretary of treasury's connections with the same company, he was the head of CSX for a long time, and this same company, the United Arab Emirates Company spent a billion dollars buying out CSX's container business, you look at Neil Bush, the president's brother who got funding from the UAE for his software company, this thing starts to look to me very bad and so I think we do need time. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Senator Barbara Boxer, and I agree with you.  On something this important, I think the fact that the president is saying no to a 45-day delay to investigate this causes serious problems.  Senator, thank you so much for coming on after this news broke just about 15 minutes ago.  We really do appreciate it and we hope to talk to you next week as this story continues to progress. 

Let's bring back in our all-star panel right now.  Pat Buchanan, I think this deal is dead.  What do you think? 

BUCHANAN:  I think they're going to back away from it and I think that segment of it that deals with American ports, I think the company will eventually back away and not do it.  And just to Mort's point, a brief point.  Look, Mort, when you got your troops out on a hill and you're on the wrong terrain and they're getting shot up, you don't pour all your forces in there.  Cut your losses, pull back, find a different terrain on which to fight.  This is horrible terrain on which the president should fight.

ZUCKERMAN:  Pat, let me ask you this.

SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on a second, I want to bring in Victoria for a second, because Victoria you've expressed concern, as has Evan before, about the impact of this on our relations with the Arab world, especially financially.  Talk about the UAE and what kind of financial impact they have on America. 

BARRETT:  Well, I think what's important about the UAE is that, you know, they are part friend, part foe.  They're a tricky country for us to deal with.  But that's like a lot of countries in the Middle East, and we're at a time right now in this “war on terror” as we call it, that we want allies in the Middle East, we want information from people in high places in the Middle East.  So, we have to make deals that we might not feel totally comfortable with and maybe this one went too far and, frankly, it should have been squashed before it got to this level, but now that we're here, we have to be really careful about what we say and how we portray ourselves to the Arab world, because you know, we want to bring democracy and capitalism to that part of the world and we won't do it looking, you know, like bigots, frankly, and saying just because this country—this company is Arab we can't let them into our country. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Everybody stay with us.  Mort, I want you to respond to that.  We're also going come back with Pat and Evan our entire panel, talking about breaking news that Dubai Port World is saying it's going to back off part of its $6.8 billion deal to run six of our ports.  I think the deal's dead.  We'll talk about it more when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.



SCARBOROUGH:  We have breaking news tonight from the “Associated Press” saying that Dubai Ports World is offering to delay part of its $6.8 billion deal.  However, we've been talking to the press department of that company.  They are telling us that the “Associated Press” has it wrong and at this time they are scrambling to put together a statement that they can send to us and the other networks.  Right now we're in contact with the “Associated Press” trying to get in contact with them to get them on the phone to figure out who's not telling the truth. 

I'll tell you what I've very rarely seen the “Associated Press” needing to back of a story like this.  Let me bring in Mort Zuckerman right now. 

And Mort, what can you tell us about what's going on?  Obviously, nobody has information, exactly what's going on, but what do you speculate may be happening with this company, what's happening with this A.P.  story? 

ZUCKERMAN:  Well, first place, this company is a much larger company in terms of the acquisition by the Dubai Emirate.  This is—these six terminals are only a part of the overall transactions, so what they would undoubtedly do is allocate a part of this purchase price to these six terminals in six cities and they would set that aside and go ahead with the rest of the transactions, so it doesn't hold up the rest of the transaction, which by the way fits into a much larger company that they'd been building up over the years to be in this business of managing shipping and terminals.  So, that's just.

SCARBOROUGH:  It's just not worth it to them, right?  This P.R.  nightmare?

ZUCKERMAN:  No.  Well, no, no, no, it doesn't mean that they don't think that rest of this deal will go through, as I say, the question is if there has been a serious investigation by the committee that reviews these foreign investments, and that investigation is published and it is persuasive, it may enable this firestorm to be passed over.  I don't know that this will be the case, because I can't imagine, given what Peter King said, that that kind of investigation was done.  If there is an investigation, if it takes 45 days or whatever it is, to do that investigation and that investigation is persuasive and conclusive, they may be able to get it through.  I don't see, necessarily, that that's going to be an easy job for them.  They're going way uphill on this one at this point.  But in the meantime, the company can go ahead with the rest of the transaction that involves 20-odd additional terminals and cities that they're buying from the British company. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat Buchanan, what's going on here?

BUCHANAN:  I think the Dubai company has probably been talked to by the leaders in Dubai who say, look, we don't need this aggravation we're in business to make money, we're crosswise with all the Americans, we're estrous on Capitol Hill.  Let's back off this for a while.  It would be a smart business decision.  Cut your losses temporarily and they don't go to war, they're business men. 

ZUCKERMAN:  Right.  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey let's—by the way, we've just spoken with the “Associated Press.”  they are standing by their story which we reported 30 minutes ago that Dubai Ports World is offering to delay part of their $6.8 billion deal to take over six of our most important ports in America. 

I want to go a Evan Coleman right now. 

Evan, you have warned us of the consequences of America, basically, scuttling this deal.  What do you think's going on here, if in part—if this deal is killed?  Now would be a good time for you to repeat what kind of impact you think that'll have on America and the Arab world. 

EVAN COLEMAN, MSNBC TERRORISM ANALYST:  Well, I think it's very unfortunate that political hysteria has risen to these levels.  There is absolutely no security issue here.  The security is not handled by this company.  It's not handled by the British company, it's not handled by the UAE Company.  It's handled by the United States government.  There is a very legitimate issue, a port security issue—of port security here, rather, that's being completely sidelined that has to do with real threats to the United States and in the meantime, by doing this, by causing these problems, by making America look like it's run by a mob mentality that's afraid of Arabs, all we're doing is chasing away moderates and others in the Middle East who support us.  There are Arab Muslims out there—there are tons of Arab Muslims out there who are pro-American. 

If they don't think that they can get a fair shake here that's going to change dramatically.  Look at the attitude of Muslims in Europe right now.  Compare them to the attitudes of Muslims here in the United States.  It's very clear what direction this is going in.  And what's more, is if you're afraid about an Arab corporation working at port facilities on the East Coast of the United States, then you should be afraid right now, because for years there has been a Kuwaiti corporation that's been involved right here in the port of Newark in the port of New York and there has been no incident.  People need to stop watching so many episodes of “24,” it's hysteria. 


SCARBOROUGH:  And Victoria, I take it that you agree with that?

BARRETT:  I agree entirely.  You know, Islam is the fastest-growing religion.  We can't—we've got to make friends here and I think all the debate that's been going on this week in our country has shown—you know, the ugly Americans side, and for politicians there's absolutely no upside in taking the side of the Bush administration and saying that this deal is OK.  Because if there is ever, ever, ever a security breach in one of these ports, you know, you've lost your electric base and this has been a great opportunity for democrats and republicans alike to say, you know, we are strong on security, we are strong on keeping our nation safe.  But we've got to put this into perspective of our overall objective. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat Buchanan, 45 seconds.  What does this mean for the president? 

BUCHANAN:  I think the president's been hurt again, just the Harriet Myers thing and the democrats have been pounding him badly.  But I think this is a larger thing here, Joe.  I mean, the president's hammered national security, national security and the American people have internalized it and frankly, they put national security ahead of globalization.  And when you hear that, and I hate to say it, but when you hear Arabs are going to run American ports, they say no way, this is the United States of America.  It's gut level, emotional level, but that's what the American politicians have to understand, intellectuals and others have got to understand this is a gut issue with Americans and they don't want Arabs running American ports. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Pat, we're going to have to leave it there.  We have talked once again to Dubai's Ports World.  Now they're saying the A.P.  story is correct, they're willing to delay part of the deal, and with that let's turn it over to Tucker Carlson to figure out what “The Situation” is tonight—Tucker, what have you got?



Content and programming copyright 2006 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2006 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.'s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.


Watch Scarborough Country each weeknight at 10 p.m. ET


Discussion comments