It seems like just yesterday -- and, in fact, it was -- that George W. Bush was insisting that the plan to turn over control of six U.S. ports to Dubai Ports World, a company controlled by the government of Dubai, had been subjected to "careful review" by "people responsible in our government."
But just before Bush spoke yesterday, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Peter Pace said they didn't hear about the plan until this weekend. And now the White House is saying that the president didn't learn about the plan until "the last several days" -- which is another way of saying, after his administration had already approved it.
So here's a question: If the "people responsible in our government" aren't the president, the secretary of defense or the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who are they? The answer, it seems, is the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which is headed by Treasury Secretary John Snow, who used to be the chairman of CSX Rail, which sold its own port operations to Dubai Ports World in 2004. Snow's committee approved the Dubai Ports World deal earlier this month after a brief review. Federal law requires that the committee engage in a 45-day investigation -- and leave the final decision to the president -- when the plans of a company controlled by a foreign government could affect U.S. national security. Snow's committee didn't engage in such an investigation, and administration officials are apparently at a loss to explain why not.