If you've ever been engaged in any kind of relationship with a pathological liar, you know how the day arrives when you disbelieve everything -- no matter how trivial -- that comes out of the liar's mouth.
On that day, the liar might sit calmly before you, telling his latest tale, but something in you snaps. You leap upon every possible contradiction, acting like Perry Mason on crack, shaking your finger and barking questions, as you try to corner him in an undeniable lie. It doesn't matter if it's denying that he screwed your best friend's wife or ate the last Little Debbie snack cake. You are the grand inquisitor. The confession of any lie will redeem your sanity.
In short, you end up acting as crazy as the liar.
Last week, the entire country fell into the crazed inquisitor's role. It chagrins me to possibly compromise my liberal credentials, but I found absurd the reaction to the shooting incident involving Vice President Dick Cheney and the plan to give a Dubai company management of six American ports.
Recall that the media and bloggers went crazy after Cheney accidentally shot a friend, Harry Whittington, while hunting quail. The 78-year-old victim had a minor heart attack.
The press, which has behaved for most of the last five years like the administration's lap dog, went insane because Cheney waited to report the shooting to the media.
The VP also waited a day to talk to local law enforcement and made no public commentary until he appeared, at President George Bush's insistence, on a Fox News interview a few days later.
The press, stinging from its deserved rep for not bringing enough skepticism to its White House coverage, went bananas, poring over every detail of the incident, trying to figure out whether Cheney was drunk at the time of the shooting. You couldn't turn on the television or log onto a blog without running into an avalanche of speculation.
Eventually, people started to rightly call the incident a metaphor in that its handling was consistent with Cheney's usual habit of conducting business in secret and ignoring rules. The press, like the inquisitor in a relationship with a pathological liar, left no pebble unturned in its histrionic bid to redeem its reputation as a defender of truth. Had any reporter been half as thorough in investigating the claim about Iraq and weapons of mass destruction, life might be very different for all of us.
As soon as the Cheney story died, "Portgate" erupted. The administration announced last week it was awarding management of six American ports to a company owned by the government of Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates.
A few also called it a metaphor for administration secrecy, since the decision was made without consulting Congress. Further, it brought out the usual petulance in Bush, who told reporters that if Congress made any law blocking the plan, he would veto it.
No matter how much I pored through information about the plan, I could not find any evidence to support the bipartisan objection to it. Most opposition was based on the fact that Dubai is an Arab nation and that a couple of the 9/11 pilots were from there. That's a stupid objection, since Dubai has been a strong ally. You can't hold Dubai's government responsible for the two terrorists, any more than you can blame our own for Timothy McVeigh's terrorism in Oklahoma City.
Bush dared to suggest that blind prejudice against Arabs was the real problem here. Indeed, you didn't have to look further than über-liberal goddess Maureen Dowd to see that. In her column in the New York Times on Feb. 22, she wrote, "Maybe it's corporate racial profiling, but I don't want foreign companies, particularly ones with links to 9/11, running American ports."
Holy crap. Somebody hand MoDo her new redneck ID badge. The fact is that port security, such as it is, will remain firmly under the control of the United States when Dubai takes over management.
Of course, when that became clear to panicky liberals and conservatives alike, many went back to the metaphor argument: Only a completely isolated president could be unaware that this would create a firestorm. There must be some personal financial gain for Bush. There has to be ... something.
Portgate is, if nothing else, an extravagant political gift to Democrats, since their objections, like Dowd's, make them seem more conservative than the president on national security. No wonder Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist threw his hat next to Sen. Hillary Clinton's in this case.
I hope we soon regain perspective and get back to matters of genuine concern: domestic spying, the Valerie Plame affair, torture and, above all, kicking Republican liars out of our lives.
Cliff Bostock holds a Ph.D. in depth psychology.
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