Supporters of the president — and generally speaking, I am one — have upped the ante in the name-calling game over the Dubai Ports World deal to take over six American ports.

Last week the name-calling went along these lines:

If you opposed the United Arab Emirates taking over the ports you were a racist because you discriminate against Arabs.

If you opposed the deal you might also be a protectionist because you wouldn't agree with the good sense of the deal. Everybody's been vetted. You might just be stupid.

All that didn't much work on anybody but professional politicians, paid lobbyists, hired gun strategists and talk show hosts who saw bad things for Republicans in the fall and all of whom demanded we all toe the line.

But in the only poll taken so far, 67 percent of you don't like this deal. That's a big number.

So now the supporters of the deal are calling you the worst name of all: Democrats.

If you oppose the deal you are an opportunistic Democrat.

Now I know there are some of those who are in fact opportunistically opposing this deal because it allows them to get to the right of the president on national security. And those generally are Democrats. Some, like the Dems who represent World Trade Center states — New Jersey, New York, Connecticut — their opposition may be genuine.

But others just see a way to whack Bush. And to that extent, the objections from the administration are legit.

But there are lots of other people — Bush voters, supporters of the war — who hate this deal. They don't completely buy the story that it's OK, and they don't like the thing getting rammed down their throat.

So all in all, it poses great political danger for the Republicans because the conservative and Republican voter can get demoralized by this story. People ask themselves, "Why did I support all these measures for the security of the country — a war, taking off my shoes at the airport, listening in to phone calls of actual American citizens — only to find out the management of ports is being sold to a foreign government?"

The intelligentsia can hype this deal if they want, they can probably even force it through, but it will be at a huge political price if in the process of debate and smear that always goes on in these controversies they end up calling their stalwart supporters Democrats. That is going to be one insult too many.

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