Ideology a poor substitute for competence

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Is ideology more important that competence? This is the question that keeps running through my head as I try to digest the latest Bush Administration debacle, the turning over of several major U.S. ports to Dubai Ports World, a company controlled by the United Arab Emirates.

For his part, George W. Bush said, "This deal wouldn't go forward if we were concerned about the security for the United States of America."

Can't argue with that. They haven't shown much concern for the 95 percent of the shipping containers entering this country without being inspected, so why start now? Our enemies don't need missiles to attack us. All they need is UPS.

Again, is ideology more important than competence?

Shouldn't we be worried about outsourcing operations of major shipping ports to an Arab monarchy whose members like to go on hunting trips with Osama bin Laden? According to former CIA Director George "Slam Dunk" Tenet, the U.S. missed one of its best chances to kill bin Laden back in 1999 because they were concerned about wiping out several members of the UAE royal family who were out hunting with the world's most wanted man in Afghanistan. Too bad we couldn't hook bin Laden up with Dick Cheney for some quail shooting.

It is also reported that al Qaeda still uses the UAE as its logistical hub, and it was the jumping off point for a majority of the 9/11 hijackers. It was also the trans-shipment point for nuclear equipment sent from Pakistan to Libya and Iran.

Letting Dubai Ports World take over major shipping operations in this country isn't exactly making a deal with the devil, just his very good friend.

But don't worry. Bush said it's safe to turn our ports over to these "friends," and we can trust them.

If you need to feel even better about Bush's leadership on this issue, the White House claims he didn't even know about the port deal until after it was approved. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld sits on the committee that approved it, but even he admitted not knowing much about it, but was in favor of it anyway.

I feel safer already knowing Rumsfeld is on the job. Can anyone tell me why he still has a job? His handling of the war in Iraq is a disgrace. As the situation in that country spirals out of control, even Fox News' Bill O'Reilly said last week that we should leave. There's a Walter Cronkite moment to remember.

But Rumsfeld will probably get a medal for his screw-ups, just like Tenet did for missing 9/11 and the weapons of mass destruction.

Again, is ideology more important than competence?

I wish things were better here at home. Browie, you're doing a heck of a job? Deficits don't matter? Harriet Meirs is the most qualified person to sit on the Supreme Court?

Can we now have a serious discussion about competent leadership?

This isn't about whether or not we should have voted for someone else. That's history. It's about whether someone is going to hold anyone accountable for the next three years. So far, the GOP-led Congress has completely shirked its oversight responsibilities. They are in ideological lockstep with Bush, and let he get away with whatever atrocity he wants, while they wallow lobbying largesse. Are there no adults left in Washington? If we ever needed a living example of Lord Acton's declaration that power corrupts, look no further.

Karl Rove, the architect of Bush's political career and promoter of the permanent Republican majority, has done an amazing job accomplishing his grandiose goals. But the polarized electorate that he has left in his wake has led to a near-complete breakdown of the country's governmental functions. Ideological zealots see no reason for compromise or sharing power, and that's one reason one-party systems don't work. It's something our Founding Fathers realized when they drafted the Constitution, which is why they set up checks and balances to keep any single power center from grabbing too much.

With Bush a lame duck, we can't hold him accountable for his remaining term. But we can hold our congressional representatives accountable for failing to check the excesses and investigate the failures. This UAE port deal seems to have awakened some on Capital Hill that not all is right in Bush's World. We hope this is the start of a trend.

If not, then hopefully the voters will start a trend of their own come this November, because ideology is not more important than competence.

n Kirk Caraway is Internet editor of the Nevada Appeal. Write to him at kcaraway@nevada, or comment online at


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