Shameful partisan politics

The progressive blogosphere got all excited yesterday when pollster John Zogby released a shocking survey revealing that 72% of American troops in Iraq think the U.S. should exit with a year.

But you haven't seen too many "progressives" point to another statement from Zogby, an editorial he placed yesterday in the Baltimore Sun about the bizarre bi-partisan grandstanding over the Dubai port issue:

There's been a virtual frenzy with senators, congressmen and governors jumping over each other to take the lead in bashing the Dubai port deal, the United Arab Emirates or the Bush administration. It's all being done, critics say, in the name of national security.

But, in reality, what is taking place is nothing more than crass political posturing and an irresponsible and ill-informed attack on an Arab country that has been a strong ally of the United States.

I don't agree with everything Zogby says, but the main point is right on the money. The spectacle of Democrats and Republicans trying out-do each other in Arab-bashing to score political points has indeed been "shameful" -- as has been the rabid partisan barking of many "progressive" bloggers who are going along for the ride.

Of course, for Bush or even Thomas Friedman to charge the critics of the port deal with racism is disengenuous and hypocrital, coming from an administration whose central achievement over the last five years has been to define all policy in relationship to the "the war on terror" and fanning anti-Arab sentiment, to justify everything from bombing countries to dismantling the bill of rights (with pundits like Friedman going along). As Deborah Mathis of BlackAmericaWeb writes:

According to the New York Times, unnamed administration officials "suggested that there was a whiff of racism in the objections to an Arab owner taking over the terminals."

That may well be the case. Plenty of people are leery of Arabs or people they mistake for Arabs, including some Italians, Latinos, Turks and Iranians who have told me about the suspicious stares and treatment they've had to endure since 9/11. Stereotyping is an American pastime.

But who created the imagery? Who fostered it? Who encouraged it? Who taught it, if not the very administration that now decries it?

Who was it that rounded up thousands of Arab "detainees," holding them to this very day in Guantanamo Bay, many without formal charges even yet?

She gives plenty of other examples, and I couldn't agree more. But does that justify progressives joining in? Using war-on-terror scare tactics and xenophobia are bad, no matter who's doing it.

It's not just morally wrong -- it doesn't make strategic sense, either. Scoring cheap political points with the other side's messages in the short-term aren't good for progressive politics in the long term (isn't that George Lakoff 101?). Witness the confusion that reigns in Democratic circles over Iraq, thanks to key leaders trying to "out-hawk" the administration a year ago and call for more troops -- only to now change gears and call for some form of withdrawal.

Progressive activists have long been saying that a consistent position on Iraq, based on real values and convictions, would have served Democrats better. The same is true when it comes to anti-Arab fear-mongering and racism. Progressives should be united in saying that it is wrong that the Bush administration has been using these tools to pursue a dangerous and harmful agenda since 9/11.

Instead, Democrats and "progressives" are doing it now, too.