It is not easy to flabbergast me. But over the course of the last week, I have been utterly stupefied by revelations of what the popular radio talk show host Michael Savage has called "Portgate."
I first heard about "Portgate" from a friend who had been listening on his car radio to Michael Savage last Thursday. Savage, true to form, had been ranting and raving about something -- something about how the Bush administration had made a deal with a company owned by the United Arab Emirates to provide security for six of our nation's vulnerable ports. It was all a bit confusing, and my first response was, "What nonsense. How could anyone believe such tripe? Such a story could not possibly be true. That's what you get for listening to Michael Savage." And so forth.
In my defense, let me explain that I had sound and cogent reasons for my savage response to Mr. Savage's story.
Reason Number One: it was impossible for me to believe that the Bush administration could be so blind as to entrust vital American security to the United Arab Emirates. Surely there had to be someone in the Bush administration who was familiar with the old adage about not putting the fox in charge of the hen house. Why not just go ahead and make Bin Laden our national security advisor? Furthermore, just imagine the consequence if an American port, guarded by the United Arab Emirates, became the victim of a terror attack, and the Bush administration had to explain to the American people, "Oh, we put the Arabs in charge."
Reason Number Two: Despite the fact that Michael Savage had claimed that "Portgate" was a story that most Americans would not hear about, I realized that this claim was absurd. Of course Americans were bound to hear about such a scandalous deal, if the Bush administration had in fact made one. Thus, again resorting to logic and reason, I argued that, because such a deal would be sure to have catastrophic political fallout among Americans from one end of the political spectrum to the other, no sane administration could possibly have cut such a deal. Who could fail to see that putting a U.A.E.-owned company in charge of our ports would cause a massive loss of trust in the Bush administration's good judgment? It would be an act of political folly almost without parallel.
After having presented these sound and valid arguments, you can imagine my surprise to discover that Michael Savage was right, and that I was wrong. What I had soberly judged to be impossible turned out to be absolutely true.
However, I don't give up easily, and I immediately adapted a fallback position. Whoever had made the deal dubbed "Portgate" could not have been high up in the Bush administration. It must have been the work of some low-level incompetent. Therefore, again continuing to rely on logic and reason, I argued that as soon as the political fallout from "Portgate" began to descend on the White House, they would quickly announce that they knew nothing about the deal, and would immediately repudiate it. It would be sheer insanity to do otherwise.
Wrong again! (Michael Savage 3, Lee Harris 0)
Instead of repudiating the deal, the Bush administration on Sunday decided to let Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff appear on a variety of TV shows defending the deal with the United Arab Emirates, thus securely fastening this noisome political albatross around the neck of the Bush administration.
Well, at least I can console myself by pointing out that Michael Savage was wrong to think the American people would not learn about "Portgate." They are learning about it, and they don't like it at all. Furthermore, "Portgate" is one of those rare issues that sweeps away all partisan and ideological differences among the American people. It is an outrage that unites conservative Republicans, like Lindsay Graham, with ultra-liberal Democrats, like Barbara Boxer -- and, well, Michael Savage and me.
There are many people who don't like Michael Savage's raucous ranting and raving -- people like me who prefer logic and reason; but, unfortunately, there are times when the only rational thing to do is to rave and rant. This is one of them. If the Bush administration is so far out of touch with reality as to defend the "Portgate" deal to an incredulous and dumbfounded American public, then maybe it is time when all of us need to take a lesson from Michael Savage, and learn to rant and rave ourselves. When dealing with the deaf, it is sometimes necessary to scream.