Philly Port Politics

A recent visit to Philadelphia yielded some insight as to how the United Arab Emirates’ flap is playing in one of the six major (container-heavy) ports most impacted by the prospect of Dubai Ports World operation. Not unexpectedly, the political grandstanding had rippled from the statehouse in Harrisburg down to the City Council level.

The Council voted unanimously for a resolution that hammered the UAE for having been “an operational and financial base” for some of the 9/11 hijackers. That was a Philly no-brainer.

The follow-up question for Council, however, was less nuanced but far trickier. Might even be a lesson here for other such governmental bodies during these high-anxiety, geo-politics-goes-local times.

A Philadelphia Inquirer reporter had an unmarked map of the Middle East and asked the 16 council members to find the UAE. Fifteen didn’t. Most couldn’t come close, but all had a ready retort, usually self-deprecating on geography but (ostensibly) self-serving on politics.

Not atypical was Councilman Jack Kelly who noted that wherever the UAE was, it wasn’t on the Delaware River or even in the United States. “I don’t care if it’s in England, if it’s Denmark, Sweden, Ireland, Italy,” he declared. Presumably with a straight face.

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