Why So Silent Now, Sen. Schumer?

by Katrina Trinko

Both Politico’s Ben Smith and Slate’s David Weigel have noted the similarities between Sen. Chuck Schumer’s (D., N.Y.) reaction to the proposed sale of a few U.S. ports to the United Arab Emirates’ Dubai company in 2006 and the current Ground Zero mosque controversy. Schumer’s 2006 quote about the Dubai company (“Let’s say skinheads had bought a company to take over our port — I think the outcry would have been the same”) is amazingly close to Newt Gingrich’s recent statement about the mosque (“Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust Museum in Washington”). And that wasn’t all Schumer had to say about the insensitivity of the Dubai port plan. From a February 16th press release:

The question that needs to be answered is whether or not they [Dubai] can be trusted to operate our ports in this post 9/11 world. Should we be outsourcing our own security?

From a letter that same day, signed by Schumer and a handful of senators from both parties:

According to the Congressional Research Service, many U.S. officials believed that al Qaeda activists have spent time in the UAE. In fact, two of the 9/11 hijackers were UAE nationals (Fayez Banihammad and Marwan al-Shehhi), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation claimed the money used for the attacks was transferred to the 9/11 hijackers primarily through the UAE’s banking system. …

In light of these considerations, we expect CFIUS, as the President’s designee, to undertake a complete and thorough investigation of this acquisition in accordance with Federal law.

From a February 19th press release:

Joined By Outraged 9-11 Families, Schumer Calls On President To Personally Intervene To Override Secret Committee’s Deal To Give United Arab Emirates Control Of Our Ports … Schumer, standing with 9-11 families called for the President to override approval for the deal and begin a special 90 day investigation into all US port contracts that involve foreign governments.

So why isn’t he standing with the 9/11 families now? Several of them have spoken out against the Ground Zero mosque, including Debra Burlingame, who lost her brother; Jim Riches, whose firefighter son died; Neda Bolourchi, a Muslim woman whose mother was killed; and Peter Gadiel, who lost his son. Does Schumer think that the Dubai ports — which involved a relatively friendly Muslim country, and which wouldn’t have impacted the U.S. security measures at the time in any way — would have been more offensive to the 9/11 families than a mosque built on a site so close to Ground Zero that a plane part crashed through the on-site building’s roof that terrible day? His silence suggests so. All Schumer’s spokesman has said is that the senator is “is not opposed to the plan to build it.” A call to the senator’s office asking for clarification was not returned.

Schumer was half-right in ’06: it is a post 9/11 world, one where we have thousands of family members who view this neighborhood as hallowed ground. If Schumer thinks this mosque should be built there, despite the protests of some 9/11 family members, he owes New Yorkers an explanation.

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