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Who is a xenophobe?

Michelle Malkin was right on when she wrote that the elite right “has simply lost its marbles.”

Like her, I am infuriated by that small coterie of Washington conservatives who have somehow got it into their heads that they are the sole arbiters of what is the proper position those of us on the right must adopt to be able to call ourselves conservatives. They promulgate the party line and we are all expected to fall in behind them.

This has been bothering me for some time, but lately they have really gotten under my skin with their suggestion that those conservatives who have serious doubts about the wisdom of the Dubai ports deal are motivated by bigotry. As far as they are concerned, we’re all a bunch of anti-Arab xenophobes whose questions about the deal are really our way of expressing our anti-Semitism because Arabs, after all, are Semites.

As Michelle Malkin noted in her column, Grover Norquist, one of the high priests of the Washington conservative elite, had the gall to tell the liberal Los Angeles Times that the “only whiners left by next week will be the registered bigots.”

Not to be outdone, Larry Kudlow observed, “This whole brouhaha surrounding the Bush administration’s green-light to a United Arab Emirates company slated to manage six major U.S. ports has nothing to do with protecting homeland security. Allow me to give it its proper name: ‘Islamophobia.’ ”

Even President Bush has weighed in on the xenophobic angle, suggesting “those who are questioning” the deal need to “step up and explain why all of a sudden a Middle Eastern company is held to a different standard than a great British company.”

All of this begs the only legitimate question that can be posed by this deal: is it in the interests of the security of the American people? If it is, the deal is acceptable. If it’s not, we ought to run away from it as if it were a case of bird flu.

Conservatives outside the beltway have yet to get a clear answer to that question, and we deserve more than the kind of scorn the inside-the-beltway elitists have used to describe us. We are not bigots, we are not ignorant clods, we are simply concerned citizens who seek assurances we have yet to get.

It seems to be an article of faith among the Washington conservative establishment that they possess superior wisdom that somehow elevates them above all others when it comes to deciding what constitutes conservativism. They see themselves set apart from those in red-state America who exist only to be led around by their betters. They don’t grasp the inescapable fact that they are imitating the liberal blue-state elite who think that nobody outside of New York, Los Angeles or Boston has an opinion worth listening to. Only for them Washington is the seat of all conservative wisdom.

Every single one of this bunch is quick to claim the legacy of Ronald Reagan and to identify themselves with his beliefs, yet nobody had more contempt for the kind of elitist attitudes the inside-the-beltway crowd have adopted.

Ronald Reagan’s great article of faith was in the inherent goodness and wisdom of the American people. My father was a red-state conservative through and through who couldn’t wait to get out of Washington every chance he got and go do hard physical work on his ranch. He felt smothered by the intellectual fog that hangs over the nation’s capital, which is perfume to the elite.

All we are asking for is a full and complete explanation of the pros and cons about the port deal. After all, Homeland Security and the Coast Guard initially rebuffed the deal until they were brought in and made to understand it.

To be surprised that we have the same questions all these top people had ignores the fact that we are entitled to get the same information they got. How else can we make up our minds?

To be called Islamaphobes and xenophobes just because we ask for that information is outrageous. It’s just plain bigotry.

-Mike Reagan, the eldest son of the late President Ronald Reagan, is heard on more than 200 talk radio stations nationally as part of the Radio America Network.