Mike: Dubai Was “Cheapest Political Shot”

Mke Bloomberg, evidently, doesn’t have a particularly high opinion of Chuck Schumer‘s signature takedown of the Bush White House over the Dubai port deal.

Here’s a fuller transcript from the Mayor’s office (an earlier version had a rough transcript):

Mayor: I mean, come on. This is the cheapest political shot in the world. Everybody’s rushing to say, ‘our ports.’ It isn’t like this hasn’t been brewing for two decades. We have given up control of international ship transport. America has become a virtual non-entity. We don’t run ports around the world, we don’t run our own ports, we don’t have American shipping carrying this. That was long ago given away and they’re just discovering this? We do have security risks. I’m sympathetic to that. What I don’t like is all of the sudden it becomes the issue de jour and everybody’s rushing up there waving the flag, beating their chests saying ‘I’m trying to defend this country better than others.’ What about funding the Coast Guard for the last couple of decades?

Asked to respond at a press conference today, Chuck was icy:

“I’ve talked to him three times this week,” he said. “He didn’t mention it once.”

Full transcript after the jump.

Gambling: Alright. The Dubai situation, you know it’s the top story, the DPW group has thrown in the towel. They’re going to transfer to an American corporation, the management thereof. All of this conversation over the last three and a half weeks has opened up the issue of general port security, looking at-

Mayor: John, John, where were these people for the last few decades?

Gambling: Well of course.

Mayor: I mean, come on. This is the cheapest political shot in the world. Everybody’s rushing to say, ‘our ports.’ It isn’t like this hasn’t been brewing for two decades. We have given up control of international ship transport. America has become a virtual non-entity. We don’t run ports around the world, we don’t run our own ports, we don’t have American shipping carrying this. That was long ago given away and they’re just discovering this? We do have security risks. I’m sympathetic to that. What I don’t like is all of the sudden it becomes the issue de jour and everybody’s rushing up there waving the flag, beating their chests saying ‘I’m trying to defend this country better than others.’ What about funding the Coast Guard for the last couple of decades?

Gambling: Well that’s the point that’s-

Mayor: Where the heck have these guys been? The Coast Guard is an under-funded agency that we depend on to protect this country, and we didn’t rush to give the Coast Guard more money after 9/11 and you didn’t have to wait for 9/11. There was a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in ’93. Nobody rushed to defend the Coast Guard then. We’ve had- we all complain about drugs coming into this country by boat but we don’t give the Coast Guard the money to go do that. We complain about our ports being open to everybody. It’s the Coast Guard that’s going- it’s the first line of defense. I mean, so, you know, I’m a little bit- my eyes roll when I listen to all of this. It’s easy to have a political speech, but you’ve got to do something and you’ve got to fund it, and you’ve got to fund it every single year. The Coast Guard, I don’t know if it’s well-run or poorly-run- I hope it’s well run. But they need to have money every year, they need to have modern equipment, they need to know that the government and the people are behind them and that they can hire people for the long term and invest and make the kind of investments to provide the security that we need-

Gambling: And for the last 45 years-

Mayor: And that doesn’t get you a press conference, it doesn’t get you the front page or an editorial, but it even costs you money. You’ve got to go to the public and say ‘hey, your taxes are going up because we’re doing this.’ But that’s what we need.

Gambling: The last 25 years the Coast Guard has- it’s budget has been cut and cut and cut, and they’ve been closing Coast Guard stations all around the United States. And- you answered my question. How do you feel about port security in the true security question, not the politics…

Mayor: There are-

Gambling: of the who’s running…

Mayor: That is one of the big issues here. Another big issue is we live in an international world and we just have to accept that. American jobs depend on trade. America’s economy depends on trade, whether it’s people coming here to work- there’s this whole immigration issue which is tied up and everybody’s on both sides of every single part of it- or whether it is foreign investment here and when we want to make investments overseas. We just have to have intelligent, well-thought-out policies, and you don’t do that when there’s one story that is dominating the news, and the press everyday demands to be fed another hot line so they can have a headline. If Congress is going- and Congress is the one here that to me is the one that’s responsible for all of this, or the administration in Washington, together, I think, in all fairness- and it’s not Republican, it’s not Democrat, it’s not this President or the last President, it’s all- both parties, it’s all of our leaders. When things aren’t in the press- when things are going well, that’s the time to sit down and come up with an intelligent policy, make the long term investments you need, build for the future, put the structures in place. It doesn’t win you any points. It costs you money and maybe the public doesn’t like it. But that’s what leadership is all about and, you know, whether it’s the administration or Congress- whether it’s at the Federal level or the State level or the local level- come on, let’s get serious here. Reacting to one contract deal- whether the Dubai deal was a good deal or a bad deal, I don’t have- you can hear people- this, supposedly, company does pretty well. Is it a real issue? I am concerned about our ports, but you can’t just go and look at one contract one time. Where have they been?

Gambling: New York City police have a rather, well not significant, but they have a role in port security-

Mayor: We have a thousand- John, we have a thousand people invested in counterterrorism insurance. We did it after 9/11 when I came into office and we do it every single day, and we don’t-

Gambling: How about in the ports- marine. Do we need more marine or do we just have to strengthen the Coast Guard?

Mayor: It’s the Coast Guard and customs that provide security, and remember, most of New York City’s port is really in New Jersey and there’s a Port Authority, and a Port Authority Police. There’s a – I think there’s another police department for the harbor. Then there is the Federal government. The NYPD really provides security on the streets of the city and the subways and our schools; those are the things that we do, and we have a long-term, well-thought-out plan which hopefully will pay dividends for the city, and to some extent it’s one of these things if we don’t get attacked you don’t know if it was because we did the right thing or not, but we’re going to make this investment. I’m not going to just rush and try to answer the editorial of the day demanding this, that, or the other thing. Ray Kelly has- and all of the people that work in the NYPD have really thought about what we need. We’ve made the investments, we continue to make the investments, we’re going to make more investment, and we’re going to do it consistently, and that’s good government. That’s what we’re supposed to be doing, and it’s not been done, particularly with the Coast Guard which is- comes to mind because of the ports. But for example, the same thing is true at the airports. Just remember, I think it was from Boston, both the planes that took out the World Trade Center. Where was the security? Why did that fail? Because we go and we make an investment one day; we say ‘oh, we’re going to have guards.’ And then they don’t have trained guards- maybe they don’t pay them enough to get the best people, or they have rules where if you don’t do a good job they can’t get rid of them or, you know- and then we go to the other direction. All of the sudden we’re so craziness. A friend of mine went through security, they took away a manicure scissors, okay-

Gambling: Oh that happens to me all the time.

Mayor: Goes down the thing and you can buy manicure scissors on the other side of security,

LAUGHTER

Gambling: I remember having- by the way when I used to smoke, I stopped smoking- but- and I had matches and a lighter, and they said ‘I’m sorry sir, I’m going to have to take the matches from you.’ But they let me keep the lighter. Now you can’t do that. They won’t let you keep the lighter, all lighters are off the…

Mayor: They should take away your cigarettes actually. And you saw the good news about smoking in the city-
Gambling: I’ve got this on the list. Yeah.

Mayor: We’ll talk about it. This is a very big deal.

Gambling: Okay, we’ll talk about it when we come back. Let’s take our half hour break right here with Mayor Michael Bloomberg at 77 WABC.