Just to put the final exclamation point on this port deal story (for now), I think it is instructive to consider what role messaging played into the decision to pull the plug on the port deal.
In politics, there is a rule: "If you are explaining, you are losing."
The fundamental problem with the pro-Dubai argument was that it required a lot of explaining.
As has already been discussed, it was simpler to understand (and explain) the anti-port deal side of the argument. The average person could understand why the port deal was bad, merely based on common sense. Common sense dictates that no foreign country should be in charge of our ports.
That’s something a guy sitting on a bar stool in Des Moines can understand just as easily as the guy driving a cab in Jersey.
Conversely, arguing in favor of the port deal was much more difficult.
The most convincing argument I heard in favor of the Dubai deal (and this didn’t surface until days after the story broke) was the argument that the UAE is one of the few Arab allies we have, and that we cannot afford to alienate them.
I believe this argument could have gotten more traction had they gotten it out earlier and used emotion to describe how desperate we are for allies in the Middle East.
(Cleary the arguments that opposing the port deal were "racist" did not resonate any better than the claims that those of us who opposed the Miers nomination were "sexist.")
The only way you could possibly support this deal was if someone really explained it to you – and even then you may not agree with it. I listened to twenty some hours of Rush Limbaugh explaining why this was a good move, and I still wasn’t really sold on the idea.
But there is another factor that pretty much guaranteed the Dubai deal would fall through: Emotion. Which side had emotion?
Clearly, the anti-port deal side had emotion on its side. Keeping Americans safe is fundamentally an emotional issue (President Bush has typically benefited from this politically). The argument in favor of the Dubai deal was strictly based on logic.
Generally speaking, if you were to tell me there was some generic debate — and that one side was emotional and easy to understand (compared to the other side) — I would tell you not to waste your time.
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