Senator Frank Lautenberg: Xenophobe or pandering to xenophobes?

While driving into work this morning, I was a bit disturbed to hear a news report about a speech New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg gave yesterday to a group of dockworkers in Newark who were protesting the proposed takeover of several U.S. ports by a company owned by the United Arab Emirates. Quoth the Senator (parts from my memory and part from this account):

Don’t let them tell you that this is just a matter of transfering the title. That’s baloney. We wouldn’t transfer the title to the Devil, and we’re not going to transfer it to Dubai.

The workers erupted in applause at this line.

The UAE is the equivalent of the Devil? Isn’t that just a wee bit of hyperbole?

It just so happens that I don’t like this deal any more than Lautenberg does. Given the UAE’s past contacts with terrorists and the apparently cushy relationship between the administration and some of the principle players in the deal, the whole thing doesn’t pass the smell test. Also, I do not like the idea of transferring major infrastructure to a company that is run by a foreign government whose interests may not align sufficiently with ours. After all, we don’t allow foreign nations to own our airports. Port security is just as important to national security and prevention of new terrorist attacks.

Nonetheless, what’s disturbing is that those who have reasonable misgivings about this deal are being drowned out by the xenophobes. As Majikthise pointed out, supporters of the President are already labeling opponents of the deal “scaredy cats” or xenophobes. The problem is: Some of the opponents of the deal are xenophobes. Pandering to this crowd may be good for whipping up an emotional frenzy of opposition, but it’s poison for reasoned debate.

It’s sad to see a formerly august Senator like Frank Lautenberg pandering to the racist/xenophobe crowd for quick political points by comparing the UAE to the Devil. Debate the deal on its merits (or lack thereof), of course, but bag the borderline racist comments. Comparing the UAE to the devil contributes nothing to the debate other than inflaming sentiments that need no further fuel.

All I can say is: For shame, Senator. For shame.