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Transcript of Daniel Schorr's March 19 Commentary

Daniel Schorr: The seaport management story broke over us like a summer storm, and having let loose a lot of anger and latent xenophobia, it began to recede with President Bush's cancellation of the contract.

(Liane Hansen interjects: "NPR's Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr...")

Daniel Schorr: Before the story goes away, though, I'd like to mention a couple of things that didn't get much attention at the height of the storm.

One is America's heavy dependence on foreign investment -- factories, companies, real estate, you name it -- and the billions of port facilities was, to the rulers of Dubai, just another asset to diversify the profits from oil.

And so, when Rep. Duncan Hunter, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, introduces a bill to require strategic clearance for foreign investment connected with infrastructure, he should be aware that 27 of 145 oil refineries in the United States are foreign-owned.

Secondly, as with almost anything involving money and a government decision, the seaport deal was the object of some heavy lobbying of the [federal Committee on Foreign Investment] in the United States. And with all that oil money, Sheikh Muhammad ibn Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of the United Emirates, could afford the best.

Ex-President Bill Clinton has collected many thousands of dollars from Dubai for speaking fees. Other advisers -- as lobbyists are sometimes called -- were former senator and presidential nominee Robert Dole and former secretary of state Madeleine Albright.

After a bidding contest that lasted about three months, Dubai won the contract for six major American ports for $6.8 billion. Now, that probably would have created little stir, were it not for the totally unexpected surge of public opinion reflecting a nervousness about foreigners, especially Arabs, that had been fueled by President Bush's war on terror.

The collapse of the ports deal has some lessons in it about influence-peddling... and about spreading fear.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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